A potential fee to maintain Cache Valley’s green waste drop sites is being considered by the Cache County Council. The change would be a $0.50 to $1.50 increase in residents’ monthly garbage bill.
Due to overflowing sites and high operating costs for the service, Logan’s environmental director, Issa Hamud, recommended removing the service. The several cities’ mayors then said their offices were overwhelmed with calls asking to continue the service.
Waste Management then chose to only put the bins out for public use in April and October. Though the number of people who opted to pay $5 a month for a curbside green bin in addition to their garbage and recycling bins tripled, several cities — such as Hyrum and Providence — were still flooded with calls requesting the drop sites remain available for the entire season, April through November.
In June 16’s Municipal Council meeting, Jeannie Simmonds, a member of the council and the county’s Solid Waste Advisory Board, said “many communities have dropoff sites, and those sites become very problematic for the solid waste people because they are over-and misused.”
Hamud said “it’s a challenge” to enforce rules, such as not dropping off large tree stumps, rocks and plastic debris out of the green waste bins, resulting in damage to the facility’s equipment — especially the grinder used to make compost.
“It only runs a few days a week because of contamination, like rocks and plastic,” he said. “We don’t see it until it’s in there and has broken something because we use a loader to scoop it in.”
It costs roughly $350,000 to run the countywide green waste and compost program, but it only received about $127,000 in revenue.
Hamud said more employees, one for the north end of the valley and another for the south, would be needed to continue maintaining the drop sites. Though he said it would be more cost-effective to cut the countywide service entirely, Hamud presented three proposals to address the $225,000 shortfall and still maintain the system to keep up with public demand on June 1. The Solid Waste Advisory Board, consisting of seven mayors and several city and county council members, recommended the third alternative on June 8.
Under Alternative 3, each household’s garbage collection bill would see a $0.50 fee to continue the county’s compost program. Every community in the county — other than Logan — would have a green waste drop site and therefore see an additional $1 on their bill. Then at the Logan Landfill, costs for compost, wood chips and firewood would decrease.
Terrie Wierenga, a member of the Richmond Town Council, said she’s frustrated by the lack of opportunity for public comment on the issue.
“It’s less than 25 people making the decision for 45,000,” she said. “My biggest concern is we’re still dealing with economic concerns because of COVID, and who knows how long that’s going to be around. Now we might be dealing with an additional fee on our garbage bill that we didn’t even know was happening.”
Logan Mayor Holly Daines, who is also a member of the board, said: “There was an alternative proposal that had individual cities choosing it as an option, but SWAB rejected it. I was surprised SWAB made that decision and sent it out to the council.”
But Jon Wells, a Smithfield City Council member, isn’t sure the demand matches the pricetag, especially under such short notice.
“I understand the $0.50 fee for compost, because you want to keep green waste out of the landfill,” Wells said. “I didn’t know that until today, when I came to the meeting, but I get that. But to have a $1 green waste fee that few will use, I’m not sure about that.”
Of the 16 drop sites served by the county in 2019, Smithfield produced the highest amount of green waste at just more than 120 tons — roughly 20 tons more than No. 2 Hyrum (103.93), and almost double No. 3 Richmond (69.3).
But Wells said that’s to be expected from the second-biggest city in the county, and since the dropsite was removed, 117 curbside green bins were purchased by residents. He said the cities need more time to become educated on the proposal in order to give the County Council proper feedback on their wishes, and Hamud agreed.
Hamud will be attending the Smithfield City Council meeting on July 8 to discuss the proposals further, and the Cache County Council is planning to hold a public hearing town hall to allow citizens to ask questions and share feedback. The county town hall is tentatively planned for July 28, though more information will be available after the July 14 meeting.