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Garbage debate has officials talking trash

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

With the Summit County Commission set to make a decision that could guide garbage collection in the area for the next five years, frustration has set in among members of the county’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee that threatens to break up the group.

"It has gotten to the point where several of the members have either quit or resigned, and then the chairman of the committee finally resigned," said Henefer Mayor Randy Ovard, a member of the county’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee. "We have met for over 2 ½ years and it has drug on and drug on and drug on for that length of time."

Former committee chairman Bill Stoddard hinted at his concerns in a letter to the board July 27 obtained by The Park Record. In the letter Stoddard resigns as the committee’s chairman.

" the committee has never itself authored a written report to be presented to the [Summit County Commission] on any items up for consideration," Stoddard’s letter states.

According to Stoddard, the committee wasn’t asked for its written recommendations about long-range plans for the disposal of solid waste in Summit County.

"This very serious omission opens the door for the very real possibility of broad disconnects between what the committee may have assumed their message was and is and how that message was and is received," Stoddard’s letter states.

The county’s contract with its current waste hauler, Allied Waste Services, is set to expire next July and commissioners formed the solid waste committee to help them determine who will pick up trash in the area for the next five years.

"What [the committee] recommended and talked about was not being passed on to the county commissioners," Ovard said.

But Summit County Public Works Administrator Kevin Callahan insists he has not withheld information from elected officials.

"This is a contentious issue and there are a lot of challenges," Callahan said. "People have different points of view."

Though the County Commission recently began discussing whether the public works department should haul residential trash, the committee recommended that that debate begin two years ago, Ovard countered.

"It was crystal clear," he said. "We wanted the county to determine whether or not they could feasibly haul the garbage for less money than a private carrier."

But "volunteer fatigue" has caused people to resign from the solid waste committee, Callahan said, adding, "there are still some controversial issues and I would not say there is full agreement."

"I think it might have been more, frustration," responded Coalville Mayor Duane Schmidt, a member of the county’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee. "The committee is very frustrated with what is going on."

Callahan did not accurately inform the County Commission of instructions from the committee to Summit County Public Works to analyze the financial impacts of the county entering the garbage business, Schmidt claims.

"In [Callahan’s] report it clearly said that the majority of the committee was against the county taking on trash removal themselves," Schmidt said. "That’s not so."

According to Callahan, since 1999 the county has paid Allied Waste Services roughly $1 million per year to pick up residential and commercial trash in Summit County.

"Unless somebody shows me a compelling reason why we should do it, if I was voting on it, I’d say no," said Callahan, who is against the county entering the garbage business.

But to prevent the county from bidding, some committee members claim county staffers prolonged drafting the bid guidelines, Ovard said.

"The county is already in the garbage business because we have to purchase the landfill site," he said. "If we’ve got to buy the site then we ought to take a look at whether the county can pick up the garbage for less than a private carrier."

Wasatch County has saved money and has been able to respond better to complaints from customers since the government began hauling residential trash, Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme said.

"I’m personally concerned that we’re going to prolong this thing so far that if we decided as a county, to assume that position, that we wouldn’t have time to get our equipment," Woolstenhulme said.

Next month Callahan says proposals will be available to bidders interested in replacing Allied Waste Services next year as the county’s trash hauler.


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