Local leaders are re-designing the way Inyo County Integrated Waste does business in an effort to close a $300,000 budget gap and meet state mandates for waste diversion and recycling.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to approve a temporary transfer of two equipment operators from the Solid Waste Department to the Road Department to fill two equipment operator vacancies.
According to Deputy County Administrator Pam Hennarty, this move will save the Solid Waste Department about $160,000 a year in salaries without the county having to lay off any employees.
Hennarty said the move will, however, mean a change in hours of operation at the county’s waste facilities in Bishop, Big Pine, Lone Pine and Independence. But she said Tuesday’s transfer will also pave the way for future changes that she hopes will get the department in the black.
Those changes will likely include an increase in gate fees, a restructuring of waste hauling permit areas and possibly installation of a scale at the Bishop-Sunland Landfill. The board will take up a discussion about those changes in March since Dale Comontofski, owner of Preferred Septic and Disposal, was unable to attend the meeting this week and any decision regarding days of operation or changes to permit areas will directly impact his business.
With the transfer of equipment operators from the waste management program to the Road Department, Hennarty said the Bishop-Sunland Landfill will likely begin operating five days a week rather than seven; the Big Pine Transfer Station will go from five days a week (Wednesday through Sunday) to two days a week; the Independence Landfill will go from being open five days a week (Wednesday through Sunday) to two days a week; and the Lone Pine Landfill will go from being open five days a week (Friday through Tuesday) to three days per week.
Hennarty said no decisions have been made on what specific days of the week each landfill and the Big Pine Transfer Station will operate. That decision will be made next month and local residents, the two waste hauler businesses and the Board of Supervisors will have an opportunity to weigh in.
Hennarty also said that a reduction in days of operation will free up time for gate attendants at the landfills to serve as “spotters” who will observe residents unloading waste at the landfills to ensure that recyclables are disposed of properly to meet CalRecycle standards.
Ideally, a gate attendant who works in Bishop could be assigned to the Lone Pine Landfill to serve as a spotter on days the Bishop-Sunland Landfill is closed.
“We are currently under independent review by CalRecycle,” which has recommended that the county improves its recycling program, Hennarty told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. “They want to see that we’re making changes.”
If the county fails to implement the changes recommended by CalRecycle after completion of the one-year review period, Hennarty said the state agency could issue a compliance order and the county could face fines of as much as $10,000 per day.
Fourth District Supervisor Mark Tillemans said that with the proposed reduction in hours of operation and the increase in gate fees, “my concern is illegal dumping. I’d like to see an ordinance change” that would provide for enforcement and penalties for illegal dumpers.
Hennarty said staff is currently working on that ordinance, which will outline fines and penalties for illegal dumping, and possibly rewards for anyone who can help law enforcement apprehend anyone dumping illegally.
Hennarty said that she recognizes that changing the hours of operation at the local landfills will be a challenge, with most “self haulers” – residents who take their own garbage to the landfills – making use of the facilities on weekends, and commercial waste haulers operating during the week.
The two commercial waste haulers have expressed an interest in having the Bishop-Sunland Landfill closed on weekends. Hennarty said that likely won’t happen.
She did point out that Mono County staggers its landfill closures. The county could attempt to work out a schedule that would ensure that at least one landfill or transfer station is opened each day of the week.
Fifth District Supervisor Matt Kingsley said that it will be important for the county to notify the public about any changes to the days of operation for the landfills as early as possible. “Getting the word out to the public is important. Gate attendants should start telling people and get it institutionalized,” Kingsley said.
Hennarty said that she will have to meet with the commercial waste haulers before a schedule can be set, but the public will be notified.
“This isn’t happening tomorrow,” County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio said. “We have to meet with bargaining units (to facilitate the transfer of employees). This just starts the train running down the tracks.”