District breaks ground on new landfill

Alexis Barker, News Edtior

Weston County is moving closer to having a new county wide landfill, according to Ed Wagoner, chairman of both the Weston County Solid Waste District board and the Weston County Commissioners. He reported last week that an average of 12,000 yards a day of dirt is presently being moved to build pits and platforms at the new landfill location off U.S. Highway 85. 


“It only took 20 years,” Bob Hartley, a district board member, told the Board of Weston County Commissioners on Sept. 5, noting that the landfill is expected to be open early next year. 


Wagoner and Hartley’s report to the commissioners began after Wagoner removed his chairman hat and sat on the other side of the commissioners’ table. The purpose of the duo’s meeting with the commission was to discuss loan funding for the project. 


“We need to borrow money from the bank to match,” Wagoner told the commissioners during the meeting.


“To bring you up to speed, when we applied for ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) grants through the SLIB (State Loan and Investment Board), we showed the loan as our grant match,” Hartley said, noting that at the time they had a letter of commitment from the bank. 


However, when it came time to work with the bank to get the loan, Hartley and Wagoner said, the bank was informed by a lawyer that it could not loan money to a special district.


According to Wagoner, there is a way around this holdup that involves a lease agreement with the bank. He said there are two options for the lease agreement — one involves the commissioner’s support and no interest rate and the other leaves the lease to the district with an approximate interest rate of 1.5%. Hartley noted that the bank could not give official interest rate numbers at this point in the process. 


According to Wagoner, the district wants to borrow $1.9 million to match the monies from the state, but an email to Wagoner requesting more specific information on the project costs and grant amounts was not returned by press time. 


While the district does not need the money immediately, Hartley said, the board wanted to begin the process now and Wagoner stressed that the 1.5% interest rate would “add up” on a $1.9 million loan. 


Hartley further stressed the need to avoid additional costs for the district to avoid high tipping fees. He explained that the district hopes to keep tipping rates as low as possible so the landfill is not only economical for residents, but will bring in trash from other communities. 


When asked about collateral on the loan or lease, Wagoner said that if the district were to default, the bank would get the landfill and could lease the property to another entity. 


Wagoner noted that the loan would be issued to the district, even with the county’s help, leaving no financial burden on the county. 


To repay the $1.9 million loan, Hartley said, the board would use a combination of the 3 mills a year in revenue it receives, and some of the tipping fees that would be generated through the landfill operation. 


“We should be in pretty good shape if we keep the tipping fees down and the people coming,” he said. 


The term of the lease or loan is structured to be 15 years, Hartley said. The district board anticipates that it can pay it off in 10, Wagoner added. 


Without County Attorney Michael Stulken in attendance to review the information, the commissioners decided to postpone a decision on whether to offer their support until an attorney has the chance to look over the details. 


While county officials were not forthcoming with information in response to requests for project budget information, a bid notice advertised in the News Letter Journal’s legal section for two weeks does indicate that the project was moving forward. The notice published on page 12 of both the April 20 and 27 editions of the NLJ requested bids for phase 1 construction of the landfill. 


“The project consists of various earthwork tasks including gravel surfacing, culverts, structural fill, excavation, topsoil placement, seeding, subgrade preparation, sand layer installation, compacted soil liner, geosynthetics installation, fencing, electric and pump installation, and all other work necessary for the construction of a new 5-acre cell, access road, electrical infrastructure, and storage pad at the landfill site south of Newcastle, Wyoming,” according to the notice.


The notice did not provide a start or completion date for the project or give an estimate of total cost.


According to a “Final Budget” document for 2023-24 that was found under the “Special Districts” tab on the Weston County website, the Weston County Solid Waste District approved a total of budget expenditures of $7,024,623. Total revenue for the district is listed at $8,375,596, with $824,000 coming from the local tax levy, $4,473,364 from grants and $1,917,000 from miscellaneous sources. 


Expenditures for fiscal 2023-24 include $4,656,683 for capital outlay, $2,229,440 for administration, $128,000 for operations and $10,500 for indirect costs.


There are no meeting notices, minutes or agendas for the solid waste district posted on the county’s website.



The long road to new landfill


As previously reported, the Weston County Solid Waste District has encountered several roadblocks on its way to establishing a new landfill. 


Although county officials failed to provide any new information related to the delay in providing an operating landfill, the News Letter Journal reported in the April 2019 story “Title issues set landfill project back” that the landfill creation process was delayed after the land it was supposed to be built on along Wyoming Highway 450 — known as the Mush Creek Tract to the board — was found to have title issues. 


In September 2020, the News Letter Journal reported in the story “Landfill district one step closer” that another piece of land for the landfill project was located via a geographic information systems, or GIS, survey conducted by Trihydro Corp. of Laramie. That land is located 3 miles south of Newcastle and reportedly fits all the prerequisites of the Wyoming DEQ, including the land’s proximity to houses, waterways and highways. 


Hartley was willing to provide information to the public at that time and said Trihydro had predicted that the landfill could serve county residents for more than 200 years if it is limited to local waste collection only. He indicated, however, that the solid waste board would be willing to consider opening the landfill to outside use. 


Hartley also noted in 2020 that the landfill’s remote location off of U.S. Highway 85 would mean that the landfill would not be visible from the highway, with the possible exception of buildings. 


“It is out of view to the public with where it is located, and the soil and everything is ideal,” Hartley said at that time. “I think this is a landfill the public can be proud of and something that can benefit the entire county for years to come.”

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