Vouching for the landfill

A proposed free landfill voucher program received mixed reviews Tuesday during the Laramie City Council work session.

“(The voucher program) is something we’ve thought about for many years,” Laramie Solid Waste Division Solid Waste Manager Brooks Webb said. “We’ve really thought about it in recent years, because of the weather.”

The program could replace the city’s free landfill day, which coincides with Spring Time Community Clean-Up Day. While the cleanup event was rescheduled twice this year because of snowstorms, Webb said the landfill still honored the original free landfill day advertised and offered a second during the rescheduled event.

“The first issue we looked at was the cost,” he said. “We estimate the overall cost for each free day is about $20,000.”

Overtime, loss of revenue and extra equipment time and usage factored into the price tag of the event, Webb said, adding the costs are compounded when the event is rescheduled.

By installing a voucher program, he said the solid waste division could waive fees throughout a two-week period instead of a single day. City documents state participants would only be eligible for a single voucher, keeping to the current permitted drop-off amount of about a pickup load.

Webb said the program would not grant people two weeks of free trash drop off at the landfill, but rather a wider window to use their one free day.

If the program proposal were approved, he said vouchers could be acquired at the solid waste division office, 1167 N. Fourth St., starting April 1 and be used during the first two weeks of March.

“I’m a little considered about this,” Laramie resident and rental property owner Brett Glass said during the work session’s public comment phase. “There are certain days of the year, when things get dumped on the street.”

Glass said the program might be better if vouchers could be used at the end of the University of Wyoming’s semesters.

“We’ve had all sorts of problems with people just leaving things on the curb,” Glass said. “Please consider whether you want to strategically set the dates so that we can avoid the nuisance that we seem to have every year.”

Council Dave Paulekas said he also owned rental properties and disposing of renter’s leftovers was simply a cost of doing business.

“Kids don’t take things like couches to the next block over,” Paulekas said. “They put it right next to the dumpster of the apartment they live in, I can guarantee you that. And it’s just part of the business. We have to clean up after them, and you know what? We make pretty darn good money on them throughout the year, so it’s not that big of a deal.”

Councilor Klaus Hanson said he liked the direction the program was heading, but he thought it could be taken further.

“I would prefer to see a system that’s more open,” Hanson said. “The idea is grand, but I’m concerned about this narrow window that solves half the problem.”

He suggested the voucher program could be installed, so that people with vouchers could use the voucher any day the landfill was open.

Currently, free landfill day is open to all city and county residents who show up with a truck, car or trailer full of trash, Webb said.

“I think we’re going to have much lower participation,” Councilor Joe Shumway said. “A lot of people are going to say, ‘It’s not worth my time to jump through all the hoops to get a voucher.’”

Paulekas said the event’s open access led to people abusing the goodwill gesture in the past.

“I’ve sat out there on Ninth (Street) on the free day and just watched trailer after trailer loaded as high as they could get it head out to the landfill,” he said.

Webb confirmed many participants in the event did not adhere to the no-commercial-waste, single-truck-load requirement.

“I think it’s a great program, but I don’t think it focuses on the people who have the need, and that’s the residential customers,” Paulekas said. “I don’t think we need to do anything for commercial, multifamily (property owners) or county (residents).”

Councilor Bryan Shuster said the more people allowed to participate in the event, the higher the cost would be to the rate payer.

“We need to make this balance,” Shuster said. “If we give too much, that means rates are going to go up.”

No action was taken, but before Mayor Andi Summerville closed the work session, she said the council should consider the spirit in which the event was created.

“I think it’s important to go back to why we do this — I’m not sure we are keeping with the spirit of this program,” Summerville said. “We are a college town, and we have a lot of illegal dumping. We want to keep our community clean. I think we should make sure whatever we do is accessible.”

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