Bill would amend solid waste disposal payments

Noel Lyn Smith
Tony Henry and his mother Elisie Henry throw away trash Monday at a transfer station in Shiprock.

FARMINGTON — A bill sponsored by Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates would provide money to pay San Juan County the full cost of operating three solid waste compactor and transfer stations located on tribal land.

In 1994, the tribe and San Juan County entered into a joint powers agreement to construct, operate and maintain transfer stations in Shiprock, Upper Fruitland and Sand Springs.

Dave Keck, the county’s public works administrator, said the county and the tribe have been sharing the cost to operate the stations.

Under the amended agreement, the county would continue to manage the stations and the tribe would pay approximately $267,000 annually for operational expenses, he said.

The payment would "strictly" cover operational expenses such as equipment, staffing, disposal fees at the county landfill and fuel for trucks that transport waste from the stations to the landfill, Keck said.

At center, Tony Henry hands money to an attendant, Monday while dumping trash, accompanied by his mother Elisie Henry, at a transfer station in Shiprock.

County officials approached the tribe in January 2015 about assuming 100 percent of the cost because of a decline in the county's revenue due to reduced gas and oil prices, he said.

Keck added that customers pay a fee to dispose of their waste at the transfer stations but it is not enough to cover operational expenses.

County commissioners approved amending the joint powers agreement in May 2015 and the amended agreement was submitted to the tribe in February, according to county records.

Tribal officials notified the county on March 23 of the tribe's intent to fully pay for the waste disposal services.

The bill was posted on the council’s website on April 1, starting the five-day public comment period.

Bates said the service is necessary and it is important to continue because it is a public health issue and reduces illegal dumping.

The bill is eligible for committee action on Thursday. It was assigned to the Resources and Development, Budget and Finance and Naa’bik’íyáti’ committees.

If members of the Naa’bik’íyáti’ Committee approve the measure, the agreement will be submitted to Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye’s office for his review and consideration.

The entrance to Shiprock's transfer station is pictured on Monday.

Rusty Smith, the county’s solid waste manager, said each transfer station charges $1 per bag for up to 33 gallons, for up to five bags. Five or more bags cost $6 for the entire load.

The stations also will take tires at a cost of $1 each and there is no fee for disposing appliances, including refrigerators.

The transfer station in Shiprock is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily while the stations in Upper Fruitland and Sand Springs are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-546-4636.