Waste disposal still causes headaches for the city of Sundance — and now, according to a worried resident, it’s having a financial impact on businesses.
Amy Goodson, owner of Cowgirl Pizza and Laundromat, appealed on Tuesday to members of the Sundance City Council to remain open-minded about finding a better way to solve the problem.
“Help us find a way to make this affordable and fair, because in my professional opinion right now that’s not the case,” she said, asking council members to keep the open mind.
“I think there is a solution out there, please don’t give up because there doesn’t seem to be one.”
Although Goodson said her main purpose in attending Tuesday’s council meeting was to gather information and seek clarification, she admitted she had a long-term goal of changing the current garbage system.
“I believe it’s not serving, especially businesses, as intended,” she said.
For his part, council and city officials were more than willing to accept Goodson’s offer of help as a “fresh look” at the problem.
Although Goodson addressed other issues with the garbage system at the meeting, she said the main issue was the rising cost of garbage disposal for business owners at Sundance. She presented her own figures for the same month in 2019 and 2022, telling the council that her garbage costs had tripled in that time, while her sales had grown much more modestly.
“I can’t pay my bills. I don’t make enough money,” she said, later adding, “It doesn’t feel right to me and it hurts me as a business.
Whatever the reason, Goodson said, there’s no justification for the same service for the same amount of waste to cost three times as much.
“It’s not sustainable – you’re going to lose one of us,” she said of the Sundance ventures.
Council member Joe Wilson told Goodson he understands, which is why he spent years looking for a better solution. The failed attempt to form a solid waste district for the county was one such effort.
Responding to a question about how the city calculates garbage costs for individual customers, which Clerk Treasurer Kathy Lenz confirmed based on volume, Mayor Paul Brooks said the overall charges are based on a study of rate made several years ago.
“It takes so many dollars to run our waste system,” he said. He added that raising garbage rates for residents is difficult because it hurts the elderly and low-income people, so “business people are probably carrying more than their fair share.”
Just because solutions haven’t been found, Goodson pointed out, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. She implored the council to think outside the box and be ready to hear ideas from the community.
For example, she said, what if businesses paid a flat fee to the city each month to cover city needs, but took responsibility for disposing of their own garbage? According to his calculations, it would be cheaper for his company, while covering the needs of the city.
“It would be nice to have a pathway…to be able to look for an alternative to our waste disposal,” she said. “…There must be something in the middle which we can call a compromise and on which we can involve public opinion.”
Although city staff and council members pointed out several problems with the suggestion — and with the garbage situation in general — Wilson replied that he would be happy to accept the ideas. If you can find them, he said, he would like to see them.
Lenz agreed, reiterating that the city had been working on it for years. City Attorney Mark Hughes later said he too had heard from a concerned citizen, “so there is growing concern about what we are paying for these services.
“People are starting to pay attention to it and it becomes a problem,” he said.
Goodson also asked about a few issues specific to her own business that she said highlighted broader issues. The pizzeria has two bins year-round, she says, but only uses the second one during the busiest months.
She asked if it would be possible to pull one of the cans during the slower times. Lenz said it could absolutely be done — Goodson just needs to contact the city to ask.
Garbage truck drivers are typically the ones who alert the city if a trash can shows a tendency over time to become too full and a second may be needed, Lenz said. Goodson asked if there was a formal logging system for this, to which Lenz replied that there was none.
“It would be great if we could get a little more accountability if they are responsible for this information,” Goodson replied.
Goodson noted that her second trash can hasn’t been used in four months and “nobody said anything,” but she didn’t want to bother and so didn’t contact the city. She suggested letting businesses know that options such as returning a can when not in use are possible.
“The amount I’m paying for this service, I’m just looking for a little more love from you,” she said, to which Lenz replied, “We’ll be happy to help — anything we can. make. “
Goodson also asked the city to be careful about its communication methods, citing a recent social media post alerting citizens to changes to items that can and cannot be accepted for recycling. Goodson said she felt this was not a professional way to proceed and said sending something on paper was more respectful; what she reads online doesn’t stick in her mind, she said, and efforts to ask about this social media post went unanswered.
Lenz explained that it was an accidental event and that the city intended to run a newspaper ad the same week. She apologized for the confusion and said posting to social media was not intended to be the only method of communication.
Goodson also said she hasn’t had a recycling container in her business for a month, but still has to pay the mandatory recycling fee.
“I had to give up recycling because I don’t have a trash can nearby,” she said, after confirming it was against city rules to put her recycling in the recycling bin. another customer.
“I had nowhere to put my recycling without breaking the rules, but I still pay for recycling.”
Lenz promised Goodson would be credited for the month in which the container went missing, which she said could have happened during the city’s attempts to clean up the recycling program if the bin had been reported as being used to throw away garbage instead of recyclables.
Speaking in more detail about recycling, Director of Public Works Mac Erickson said the city has tried several different avenues, but some recycling centers are picky, discarded bags that contain only one item not recyclable. It’s problematic for the city when significant amounts of recycling are refused and must be taken back to the Moorcroft landfill, he said, which has spurred the program’s cleanup effort.
Lenz added that the recycling program might not even exist if it weren’t for the community’s passion for recycling. However, Erickson said, the redesign of the program is having success.
“I think we’re getting a lot closer to cleaning up,” Erickson said. “Last week was the best in months.”
Goodson inquired about the possibility of customers seeing their rates drop once the city gets a handle on recycling and therefore the associated costs. It seems fair that business owners who work to fix the problem are being offered the benefit of having done so, she said.
The problem, Erickson said, is that it costs the same amount for the truck to haul to the recycling station whether it’s two tons on it or 20. Goodson agreed, but said if the customers are able to help turn the program into something financially functional, paid a premium to do it and did the extra work, “A little reduction would help tremendously.”
In search of ideas
Goodson told council his purpose in attending Tuesday’s meeting was to encourage the city to look for alternatives and to offer him assistance in any way. At the end of the discussion, Lenz and Erickson offered to sit down with Goodson to go over the numbers.
Goodson said it could help him and other companies understand the situation, and the additional perspective could help shed light on the way forward.
“That might be all I can offer,” she said, but on the other hand, that might be enough to lead to an answer.
The city is still looking for a solution for waste
Council member Joe Wilson says he knows more about trash these days than he ever dreamed of knowing. For the past several years, he has struggled to find a way to solve the litter problem that plagues Sundance and many other Wyoming communities.
It’s a long-standing problem that dates back to the Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to shut down as many local landfills as possible in Wyoming after some were discovered to be leaking. Since then, a transfer station has been built and negotiations are underway to establish the most cost-effective destination for Sundance’s waste.
Wilson acknowledges that the current setup isn’t ideal, but says he’s been working for several years to find a long-term solution. His attempt, alongside then-Mayor Dick Claar of Moorcroft, to establish a county-wide solid waste district was unsuccessful, but he also entered into discussions with the County Solid Waste District of Weston.
“We are getting closer. I hope to get an update on the Weston County Solid Waste District after their next meeting,” he said.
They are still in the phase of deciding their rates, he said, and the next meeting is scheduled for March 16.
What makes waste a frustrating problem to deal with, Wilson explains, is that it’s an enterprise fund.
“No matter what happens, we have to make sure the garbage pays for itself,” he says. “What always gets our backs to the wall is that you have to pay for garbage with garbage.”
Wilson is grateful, he says, that previous advice has worked to ensure Sundance’s sewage and water infrastructure is strong, so, “the garbage is the only thing I have to worry about. “