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County considers hauling its own trash

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Crowds of visitors for holiday ski weekends, the Sundance Film Festival, championship softball and this weekend’s Park City Kimball Arts Festival can complicate trash collection in Summit County.

"Those folks are here to have a good time and they generate a significant amount of waste," said Kevin Callahan, administrator for Summit County Public Works. "We’ve got 20,000 beds over in the Basin and if they’re only at 50 percent occupancy all year, that’s [thousands] of additional people."

He added, "We do have a bigger problem than most communities our size would have to deal with."

As the County Commission prepares to accept bids from waste haulers interested in collecting garbage in the area for the next five years, some staffers are pushing for Summit County Public Works to begin picking up trash itself.

Commissioners heard this week from neighboring Wasatch County, where the government has disposed of residents’ waste for several years.

"I think that’s what government is here for, is to serve people," Wasatch County Public Works Director Kent Berg said.

He told commissioners Wednesday that Wasatch County has saved money and has been able to respond better to complaints since the government entered the trash business several years ago.

"The county took it over," Berg said. "Solid waste pays for itself."

Residents who live in Wasatch County full time pay roughly $14 per month to have their trash hauled to a landfill in Duchesne County.

But it took three years for the "enterprise fund" which serves roughly 6,200 residential customers — to become self sufficient, Berg said, estimating that 20 percent of those neighbors pay extra for curbside recycling.

"We just don’t want to get into the (recycling) business because it costs a lot of money and it costs a lot of money," Berg said.

Summit County’s transportation costs are expected to be much lower because of a landfill situated in Three Mile Canyon near Rockport.

With about 12,000 residential customers in Summit County, Berg recommended Summit County use six trucks to pick up trash.

County employees would also likely be paid higher salaries than Allied Waste Services pays its trash collectors who work in Summit County. Formerly known as BFI, Allied Waste Services’ contract to haul waste in the area began with Summit County in 1999 and could end next July.

"The initial capital outlay is pretty high," Allied Waste Services General Manager Rick Schultz said about how much Summit County would need to invest into a trash program.

Allied Waste intends to be a "competitive bidder" for an additional 5-year contract with the county, he added.

"My gut feeling is that it’s probably a feature that’s handled better by the private sector," Callahan said. "We don’t have staff that do that right now and government can’t and shouldn’t do everything."

Allied Waste provides trash pickup and limited recycling services each year for roughly $1 million.

"It would be a very significant effort for [the county] over the next year to do that and my sense is that we probably would not save money for the first few years," Callahan said. "We might eventually."

But Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer insists, "We’re at least considering doing it ourselves."

In September, the county expects to release a request for proposals from waste haulers and commercial recyclers.

"The challenge we’re still struggling with is the overall vision in the solid waste plan," Callahan said. "People look at this very pragmatically, did they pick up my garbage? They don’t care whether you’re having a hard time finding an employee to do the job."

"It all depends on whether the service gets done."


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