Summit County firms up flow-control ordinance to save community recycling
The proposed county flow-control ordinance to help maintain free public recycling has now been passed by the Board of County Commissioners and appears set for final approvals from three of the four towns in the next two weeks.
The three-member county board gave final approval of Ordinance No. 2A, a 17-page directive to area trash haulers regarding the collection, transportation and disposal of sold waste, on Jan. 24. The towns of Breckenridge and Frisco both initially passed the mandate requiring the county’s landfill also be the exclusive drop-off location for trash produced within their respective boundaries that same evening, with Dillon the first among them to pass introduction of the ordinance on Jan. 17. Breckenridge unanimously offered its stamp of approval, while Dillon and Frisco both relied on 5-2 voting majorities in favor.
Each town council must now pass the solid waste decree on second reading for it to become official. Dillon’s next meeting is Feb. 7 and the council will discuss the proposal’s merits during a work session starting at 4:45 p.m. Breck and Frisco have a follow-up vote scheduled for each council’s regularly scheduled Feb. 14 meeting.
“This helps to ensure the viability of our landfill, as well as recycling operations,” said county manager Scott Vargo. “We all know that there are other challenges in part with how recycling is funded and the amount of waste that does not get diverted from landfills. We need to continue efforts long-term surrounding recycling and work toward zero-waste goals at the landfill.”
Silverthorne is the lone holdout among the towns. Members of its council previously noted a number of concerns about the ordinance, including how it may impact free-market competition. As a result, the town’s governing assembly has no plans to include such a motion on an upcoming meeting agenda, meaning all trash picked up within its limits can still be taken to whichever site haulers prefer.
The community-wide issue boiled over this past October when county government staff was crunching numbers in anticipation of passing its next fiscal year budget. The county estimated that a decision by local hauler Timberline Disposal, LLC, in June to take trash to a proprietary transfer facility in Silver Plume for eventual drop-off on the Front Range drained coffers $500,000 over a six-month period. Expectations were that if nothing changed, the county could be staring down more than $1 million in lost revenues at the landfill for 2017, which directly impacts money earmarked to offset the expense of running the free recycling program.
Faced with rising costs from heightened fees for entry to unload trucks at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park, or SCRAP, north of Keystone, Timberline said it constructed the $2 million Silver Plume station. Truck contents were then sent down to the metro area to take advantage of lower entry fees, as well as offer the company a consistent locale to empty trucks after hours, or when the SCRAP was closed for holidays. Despite several meetings, Timberline and the county remain at odds over the flow-control ordinance.
“It’s too bad when the government feels it has to — because the landfill and its operations are losing money — affect our business through this regulation,” said Larry Romine, Timberline’s COO. “The county shouldn’t be stepping in and forcing us to do something to help their bottom line that affects our bottom line.”
Also Timberline’s co-owner, Romine acknowledged that some planned adjustments at the SCRAP following meetings with all of Summit’s haulers were welcome changes. For now, the ordinance is scheduled to go into effect on April 1, and fees should drop from $60 to $58 for compacted residential trash, and from $78 to $70 on all construction waste. Operating hours are also supposed to be extended to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday instead of the current 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. As another new condition, when the SCRAP has its gates down, for holidays or the occasional state-mandated wind or lightning closure, haulers may take garbage anywhere they like.
Still, said Romine, that avoids addressing the larger matter of how the county’s business model functions, using money generated at the landfill to cover the growing cost of maintaining complimentary public recycling. After years of holding off on service increases, he also anticipates hikes for customers shortly after the ordinance takes effect, given his business’s own increased fees from the inability to use his Silver Plume transfer center as much.
“The improvements at the landfill are still going to cost the county more to operate it,” he said, “and they’re already kind of in the red. Something has to happen, because it’s not working how it is. They all know they can’t continue to operate free (recycling) drop-off centers.”
Though the county also admits a fresh solution will eventually need to be found for dealing with the overall waste stream, that’s exactly what it intends to continue doing moving forward. Acting on the assumption that those town ordinances will be approved, the drop-off sites in Breckenridge and Frisco have been maintained beyond a prior Jan. 31 deadline, and early discussions have also been had with Dillon to expand a small operation run by the town.
“This is not at all unique to Summit County, and is something faced by jurisdictions around the country,” said Vargo. “There will need to be significant changes at the local, state and national levels for us to be able to accomplish improved waste diversion. We can’t keep burying trash, is really the bottom line.”
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