Tribe OKs paying full cost of garbage services

Noel Lyn Smith
Tony Henry hands money to an attendant  April 4 while discarding trash with his mother Elisie Henry at a transfer station in Shiprock.

FARMINGTON — Navajo lawmakers have approved an amendment to an agreement with San Juan County for solid waste compactor and transfer stations on tribal land.

Under the amended joint powers agreement, which has been in place since 1994, the tribe will pay the full cost of operational expenses.

The county and the tribe have been sharing the cost to operate the stations in Shiprock, Upper Fruitland and Sand Springsm, and the request to modify the agreement was made by the Navajo Nation Solid Waste Management Program.

The Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee voted 11-1 in favor of the bill on May 26 in Window Rock, Ariz.

James Benally, senior environmental specialist with the tribe’s solid waste management program, referred questions about the agreement to Division of Community Development Executive Director Carl Smith.

Smith could not be reached for comment today.

The entrance to Shiprock's solid waste transfer station is pictured April 4.

Speaker LoRenzo Bates, who sponsored the bill, said this week the service is used by approximately 19,500 residents.

After the revised agreement is implemented, the cost would become a recurring expense for the tribe, and the expense would be paid by the tribe's solid waste management program, Bates said. Discussion about increasing the program's annual budget would take place later this year during the budget process, he said.

Under the amendment, the tribe is responsible for paying the county for expenses generated by the stations, and the tribe is released from any liabilities.

Dave Keck, the county's public works administrator, said Thursday the county is aware of the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee’s approval, and personnel are waiting for President Russell Begaye to sign the document.

The president's office did not respond to a request for information about the agreement today.

The bill passed last week with a directive to have delegates attend a workshop on June 14 with the tribe's solid waste management program and the Division of Community Development. The workshop will focus on developing a waste management plan and examining the cost of establishing transfer stations at chapters, according to a press release from the speaker's office.

Tony Henry throws away trash April 4 at a transfer station in Shiprock.

During a Budget and Finance Committee meeting on May 24, the solid waste management program indicated it would cost approximately $173 million to fund transfer stations and landfills in chapter areas, the release states.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.