Park County commissioners are more than doubling the rate that local residents pay to dump construction and demolition waste at the Clark landfill, while more than quadrupling the charge for …
Park County commissioners are more than doubling the rate that local residents pay to dump construction and demolition waste at the Clark landfill, while more than quadrupling the charge for out-of-state residents.
Starting July 1, tipping fees will rise from $9 per cubic yard to $20 for local residents and jump to $40 per cubic yard for loads from out-of-state.
Commissioners made the change after learning that the operation in Clark is running a substantial deficit — losing nearly $47,200 a year — and that many of the customers are from Montana.
Under the current rate structure, “basically, we’re subsidizing out-of-state people,” said Commissioner Joe Tilden. “I don’t mind subsidizing Park County residents to a certain extent, but when it’s costing us money so people from Montana can do business, that’s wrong.”
It’s unclear what impact the hike will have on business and the deficit at the Clark facility. During a May 18 meeting, county officials wondered if raising prices could lead some customers to find another place to dump their loads. Because of the uncertainty, commissioners plan to revisit both the rates and the future of the landfill at the end of the year.
The general belief among landfill leaders is that most of the construction and demolition waste is coming from Montana customers. It’s a specific type of “dry garbage” that can include wood, shingles, siding, drywall, plastics, styrofoam, metal, wire, vegetation, stumps and other building materials. Construction and demolition waste differs from everyday household trash, or “wet garbage,” that’s formally known as municipal solid waste. Staffers feel most of the municipal solid waste is coming from locals, and commissioners are not changing the rate for that garbage, which remains at $4 a bag. The household trash is not buried in Clark, but is instead placed in a rolloff bin and hauled to the regional landfill in Cody.
In contrast, construction and demolition waste is buried at the Clark facility, meaning it accounts for the bulk of the facility’s revenue and costs. According to numbers compiled by Park County Engineer Brian Edwards, collecting and handling the dry garbage costs around $51,700 a year, while only bringing in about $13,260 in revenue.
Going to $20 per cubic yard would theoretically more than double the revenue and cut the overall deficit to about $31,000. Park County Landfill Manager Greg Palmersheim said he didn’t think the county would lose much business to Montana landfills if rates were raised to that point.
“The folks from Red Lodge and Belfry, their alternative is to go to Columbus or Billings, where the rates are significantly higher,” Palmersheim said. The manager said one customer he spoke with would have paid $140-$150 in Billings, but paid around $36 in Clark.
“Even if you doubled it … it would still be much cheaper,” he said.
However, Commissioner Lloyd Thiel, who lives in Clark, suggested going beyond that to $40 per cubic yard — for the out-of-staters.
“If we’re going to lose money a little bit to provide this service out there, the more cost we can put on the non-resident[s] that don’t contribute in any way to Park County should be explored,” said Thiel. He guessed that the county would still lose money at the new rates, but would get close to breaking even.
For his part, Commissioner Tilden said that, if the county is still going to lose money, “then why are we doing it?” He suggested closing the Clark landfill entirely and offering an unmanned roll-off bin with controlled access, like one in Crandall; Palmersheim went further, suggesting the county could stop offering any garbage options in Clark and just allow residents to hire a private contractor for their trash.
Thiel, however, said he wanted to try out the new rates — and he noted the county could take other steps to cut costs, such as by reducing operations from three days a week to two.
Commissioner Dossie Overfield, meanwhile, expressed some reservations about shutting down the facility entirely.
“I wonder where the breaking point is between people starting to dump in places that we don’t want them to dump if we don’t give them an opportunity of some kind rather than contract use,” Overfield said.
Commissioners unanimously agreed to give the higher fees a six-month trial run.
Given that “it’s so much cheaper to license a vehicle in Montana,” Palmersheim said he’s sure some northern Wyoming residents license their vehicles in Montana — which could lead to some arguments at the Clark landfill gates about residency.
However, Thiel recommended, and the rest of the commission agreed, to go strictly by the license plate on the vehicle delivering the load of construction and demolition waste.
“If a Wyoming resident shows up with a Montana vehicle licensed to them, then they should maybe license in Wyoming — or pay the out-of-state rate for the landfill,” Thiel said, to concurrence from Commissioner Scott Mangold.
“Pay the bill,” Mangold said.
County Engineer Edwards, who oversees the landfill division, said staffers plan to conduct some public outreach ahead of the rate hike, “because we will get some heat about it.”
Commissioners also discussed the possibility of raising fees at the county’s sewage disposal pond outside of Cody — as the facility is close to full and is similarly believed to be losing money — but the board decided to gather more information before making a decision.