Commission approves change to battle budget woes

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FARMINGTON — Since 1998, San Juan County has spent $12.7 million subsidizing operations at its landfill so residents of unincorporated areas could dispose of their trash for free, according to County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter.

That subsidy soon will come to an end. Starting July 1, the county will charge people to drop off trash at the landfill located on Crouch Mesa. The County Commission approved the change during its Tuesday meeting.

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Carpenter said the majority of residents in unincorporated areas do not have curbside trash pickup, which means they have to dispose of their trash at the landfill or take it to transfer stations.

The fees at the landfill will be $5.20 for the first 100 pounds of refuse. Larger loads will be charged based on weight. For example, it will cost $34.26 to dispose of a ton of trash at the landfill.

Carpenter said the changes have upset many residents, but the county was forced to implement the fees due to declining gross receipts tax revenue. Carpenter said the county would have had to cut services if it did not implement a landfill fee.

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"We're one of the only governments we could find anywhere, anywhere that does not charge for landfill fees," he said.

The new rates are similar to those of surrounding landfills. According to county documents that compare rates throughout the region, Montezuma County in Colorado charges $40.57 per ton while McKinley County charges $35 per ton. Santa Fe County charges $50 per ton. On the lower end, Sandoval County charges $9.50 per ton.

The Bondad, Colo., landfill charges per cubic yard rather than ton. It costs $54.24 for people to dispose of four cubic yards at the Bondad landfill. The Durango, Colo., landfill charges $35.48 for people to dispose of four cubic yards.

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A few years ago, the county implemented fees for taking trash to transfer stations. It currently costs $1 per bag up to five bags or $6 for a pickup truck load to drop trash off at the transfer stations. Those fees also were controversial when they were implemented, and many people worried if that would lead to an increase in illegal dumping. Carpenter said the county will aggressively monitor for illegal dumping after the landfill fees go into effect.

At the same time, Carpenter said fees for disposing of trash are not the only cause of illegal dumping in the community.

"We've been cleaning illegal dump sites up since the 1950s, even when everything was free," he said.

People who see illegal dumping are encouraged to report it by calling nonemergency dispatch at 505-334-6622.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

NOTE: This story was amended to correct the level of fees charged for the first 100 pounds of refuse. Figures contained in the earlier version of this article were culled from a county document but did not reflect the final fee structure.

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