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Lamar Might Become Landfill Hub

Commercial Trash Receptacle

 

Once a week the City of Lamar’s garbage trucks collect your trash from the container in your street or alley and once a month you get a bill in the mail for services rendered. It’s been less than a financial break-even situation for the city’s sanitation department.

As explained in the work session held by the Lamar City Council, July 10th, a fee increase for commercial contract haulers using the city landfill allowed for a small financial surplus since it was put into practice 18 months ago.  However, capital equipment repairs and replacements for landfill equipment, opening new cells and regulatory compliance costs deplete any real earnings.

Meanwhile, some smaller communities in southeast Colorado have received notices of mandatory operating procedures and they can’t come up with the needed revenue to make the changes required by the state health department. They’re looking at the possibility of dumping their solid waste collections in the Lamar Landfill as an alternative to maintaining their own costly sites.  The work session took a look at current local customer charges and what fees would be associated with becoming a landfill that serves the region on a profitable or break-even basis.

The guide offered at the work session noted each Lamar residential customer pays an $18 fee per month or $216 per year for solid waste services. A residential container holds 98 gallons or half a cubic yard and a weekly pick-up yields 26 cubic yards per year, per customer.  This averages out to $8.31 per cubic yard.  An eight year average shows the operating cost per cubic yard at the landfill at $32.61 and the average revenue is $29.74 for the same time frame.  The city accepted 42,709 cubic yards at the landfill in 2016 and the related operating cost was $34.30 per cubic yard.  The council noted this is an average capacity per household as some people don’t fill their receptacle to its maximum while some stack it over the brim. Administrator Sutherland noted the city is losing almost $3 per cubic yard that goes into the landfill.

He explained, “We haven’t been lucky enough to have the two ends meet, expenditures and revenues. The city has had some expensive equipment requirements the past several years on an aging fleet of trucks with the exception of two new ones we bought recently.”  He added there are some current costly repairs and parts are becoming hard to find which translates to more wear added to the current trucks. Regarding the city landfill being used by outlying towns, “The CDPHE has been prompting smaller communities to consider Lamar and shut down their own landfills because they can’t afford to operate them.”  He said he’s discussed the matter with Public Works Director, Pat Mason, to find an equitable way to charge these towns and it’s going to have to be based on cubic yardage as the city doesn’t have scales to accommodate the trash loads.  Sutherland said his past experience and discussion with consultants has recommended as much as $57 per cubic yard for a fee.

Mason said the city tracks the dumping capacity each day and reports to the state on a quarterly basis as the city is charged $0.22 cents per cubic yard by the state. “We opened the newest landfill in 1989 and that should give us from 45 to 50 years of life, but that will be cut short, perhaps by half, if we start to accept other towns’ trash.”  He said the extra yardage will have to be factored into a fee along with other charges from the state that the smaller towns will no longer be obligated to pay.  He added that the city doesn’t charge for the open dumping weekends at the end of the month, and that material over the year is also factored into the state fee.  Based on the twenty-two cents rate, the city paid the state approximately $9,400 in 2016.

City Treasurer, Kristin McCrea, said in anticipation of future closing costs and fees, a percentage of the revenue is set aside and kept in a separate account. At present, there’s about $200,000 that’s been saved, but not nearly enough to pay to close the landfill when it’s at capacity.

Sutherland said he’s been contacted by one city with a serious intent to hire Lamar for its landfill and he anticipates additional discussions with other communities in the near future.

By Russ Baldwin

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