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LANDFILL BUSINESS 6-27-16 LMS

The past decade has seen the processing and disposal of garbage turned into a huge, intricate and highly regulated business, a business that has all the concerns for bottom line number crunching as any commercial enterprise.

The Lemhi County Landfill is no exception. The Landfill is under the umbrella of Lemhi County and at the same time is a separate entity. It is not a for-profit business in the usual sense however; it does need to be operationally efficient in terms of the amount of revenue coming in and on-going operational costs. At present the scales are tilting more towards the cost side than the revenue side and a special committee is looking into ways of finding a more efficient balance.

The Landfill is funded by tax dollars and revenue generated by recycling. The “Solid Waste Fee” listed on yearly tax bills goes strictly to funding the cost of operating every aspect of the trash processing and disposal facility. The fee has nothing to do with how the trash gets to the Landfill or whether it is hauled there by a commercial company or some sort of individual conveyance.

At the June 27 meeting of the Lemhi County Commissioners members of the Landfill Committee met with the board to report on discussions to date. In attendance were Lemhi County Treasurer Mary Ann Heiser, Lemhi County Assessor Jenny Rosin, Lemhi County Planning and Zoning Administrator Gary Goodman and Landfill Manager Ken Boese.

One of the committee’s concerns has to do with the fact Lemhi County taxpayers are bearing the entire cost of funding the Landfill operations while from 25 to 30 percent of the trash processed by the facility is trucked in from Custer County. The committee is studying ways to rectify that situation. Many other approaches towards increasing revenues are also under consideration and include ways to actually lower the once a year Solid Waste Fees now being charged.

Landfill Manager Ken Boese has made many physical improvements to the facility in the past few years and has expanded the revenue generating recycling efforts. Part of the business of the landfill is keeping track of prices being paid and outlets interested in any of the many items collected. Researching the best time to sell and the best time to stockpile is part of his self-imposed management duties.

Boese told the Commissioners Monday that he just made the first sale of recycled mother boards and circuit boards to a Boise firm for $1.50 a pound. He said the first sale of electronics will be researched as to cost efficiency. He reported that the prices paid for baled cardboard are on the rise and he is preparing the next shipment. Metal prices are still down so he will keep stockpiling and continue to watch that market.

One idea being considered for public convenience as well as for saving money is installing a transfer station at the landfill entrance for the purpose of making Saturday and Sunday trash deliveries possible. Boese is getting quotes on what such an installation would cost and calculating how much an extra day without Landfill staff or operating equipment would save.

In addition to making operational costs equitable and self-sustainable, the overall goal for the Landfill is to have those who produce the most refuse pay a more representative share of operating expenses. The committee is reviewing a list of the larger contributors and is also considering establishing a charge for each non-commercial delivery or a charge based on the weight of the household load of trash being delivered.

The perpetual question of how to better manage the outlying transfer sites is another major focus for the Landfill Committee.

The only change agreed upon for now is to remove the Solid Waste Fee exemption for churches and school parcels. Heiser said removing those $70 a year exemptions will give the county an idea of how much will be generated and provide some revenue for the first year of changes. Heiser will call the State Tax Commission to verify the legality of that plan and a list of existing exemptions will be prepared.

The ways and myriad of details connected to all the ideas are still under discussion. Making sure whatever changes adopted are affordable to fixed and/or low income residents is also a concern of the Landfill Committee.

Once all changes are agreed upon it is expected the new policies will take about a year to implement. Somewhere within that time frame the county will host an Open House to hear public comment on the Landfill Committee recommendations


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