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County weighing options for dump fees

July 19, 2013

Inyo County leaders are looking into a revenue shortfall at local landfills. One idea officials say could help increase revenue and ensure residents are paying the right price for the garbage they take to the landfill would be the installation of scales at the Bishop-Sunland Landfill entrance (above). File photo

With Inyo County Consolidated Waste facing a deficit for the coming fiscal year, local leaders are looking at ways to boost revenue and reduce expenses.
One option for maintaining state compliance while getting a clearer picture of the amount of waste going into local dumps, Senior Deputy County Administrator Pam Hennarty said, would be including scales at the Bishop-Sunland Landfill.
Hennarty kicked off what she called a “trilogy” of workshops Tuesday to discuss concerns at local landfills. On Tuesday, Hennarty discussed solid waste disposal and recycling and she is planning to return to the board for its Tuesday, Aug. 6 meeting to discuss potential solutions and seek advice from the board on how to proceed.
According to Hennarty, each year, Inyo County is required to report to the state exactly how much waste was disposed of at the three county landfills (Bishop, Independence and Lone Pine) and several transfer stations in smaller communities like Big Pine and Darwin.
The state also mandates that the county pay $1.40 per ton of garbage that goes into the landfill “for regulation reasons,” Hennarty said. The county pays a total of $38,000 a year to the State Board of Equalization, $48,000 to the State Department of Water Resources and $700 to Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District.
With those fees, along with the cost of operating the landfills, Inyo County is looking at a $437,000 shortfall for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
“Revenues are projected to be low,” Hennarty said, but the biggest problem, one she said can be solved, is that “there are no real checks and balances with what we are collecting” at the landfills.
While the state is requiring the county to report on the tonnage of waste at landfills, the county continues to charge landfill users by volume, “estimating” what the weight of each load that comes into the landfill is, Hennarty said.
A solution to that problem could be as simple as purchasing a scale at the Bishop-Sunland Landfill. Hennarty said a scale for the landfill would cost about $100,000 and would allow the county to accurately track how much waste is going into the landfills.
Another option Hennarty mentioned was a shuffling of hours at the landfills and maned transfer stations to save money. She said the county could even decide to temporarily close one or two of the three county landfills, to be opened at a later date, when revenue supports their operation.
“Right now,” Hennarty said, “we are not charging a high rate at all for processing of our trash. To eliminate General Fund contributions (to Integrated Waste) we would have to charge $49 a ton. We’re going to have to make some changes. We can look at rates, but we need accurate data” about how much each individual is dumping at the landfills.
The Inyo County Grand Jury, which released its annual report this week, agrees with Hennarty.
“The lack of scales at county solid waste facilities to weigh materials being landfilled or diverted make it difficult to accurately quantify the county’s actual recycling rate,” the 2012-13 Grand Jury Report states. “… (S)cales would allow the county to set rates sufficient to pay for the county’s disposal and recycling costs and accurately charge customers.”
The Grand Jury went on to say that the county is unable to identify exactly where some solid waste being disposed of is coming from. “One suggestion is to provide a card to county residents identifying them as county residents, which would be similar to a library card,” the Grand Jury report states. “This could allow county residents to make a certain number of trips to waste facilities per year at no or reduced costs.”
Hennarty proposed a similar program, which would also allow Integrated Waste staff to charge higher rates to out-of-county residents planning to use local landfills.
Local leaders will discuss plans for closing the budget gap for Integrated waste in August. The Board of Supervisors is also required to address comments made by the Grand Jury.

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