The San Miguel County Commissioners have been getting feedback, positive and negative, on the upcoming fees for trash disposal at the Norwood Transfer Station. Some in the Norwood area are expressing surprise, even outrage, that there will be a charge for disposing of trash at the station starting June 1. 

The evolution of the Solid Waste Disposal District started in 1991 with funding through the .5 mil SWDD tax imposed on properties in the unincorporated areas of the county. This is about 4,500 properties, and originally the tax brought in more than $100,000. 

The mill levy over the years decreased, while the volume of materials handled at the transfer station increased. At the same time, many people who do not pay the tax have been able to dispose of their trash for free. 

The mill levy from the 4,500 properties in the SWDD have subsidized that free trash disposal for 20-plus years for the Wright’s Mesa region and beyond.

Kris Holstrom, District 3 commissioner, has given additional background on the issue and now requests community participation in the process moving forward. She said the county’s goal is long-term sustainability of the station. The mill levy increase voted in last November brings the district’s revenue back up to about 90 percent of where it once was. 

That mill levy will cost property owners $2.88 per $100,000 assessed (not actual) value of their property. If a property’s assessed value is $300,000, then that taxpayer will be paying $8.64 per year to help fund all the SWDD services.

“Paying to dispose of the trash you produce is called Pay As You Throw, or PAYT,” Holstrom said. “Considering the long-term sustainability of the transfer station, commissioners believe a PAYT system is fair. We all pay for the amount of propane we use. We pay for the amount of electricity we use (in addition to a base rate for having the electrical service). And many of us (even if we are in the SWDD and pay the mill levy) also pay for our own trash pickup service. That service is available throughout the county.”

Holstrom said the staff and commissioners worked through the SWDD budget carefully. They want to encourage recycling and encourage reducing waste to landfill. Based on the project budget, the BOCC couldn’t fund everything. 

Still, the BOCC has chosen to continue to subsidize free recycling at the Transfer Station. Bruin Waste is the business operating the Transfer Station and has worked with county staff on this transition.

Currently, the SWDD funds several programs: the Annual Hazardous Waste Disposal event, Electronic Waste Recycling event, Annual Norwood Spring Cleanup, Holiday Tree Chipping, Ophir and Placerville Post Office Recycling, Norwood Household Trash & Recycling Transfer Station, and some services for Egnar and Placerville. 

The BOCC is forming a Citizens’ Advisory group for long-term sustainability. At the end of 2019, the group will meet to review the six months of operations with the fee for trash in place and the overall SWDD programs and budget. The group will look at incidents of illegal dumping and work on ideas to eliminate that. All input to move the effort forward to long-term, positive operations will be considered.

Holstrom said the board will review use of the Transfer Station over time. 

“We know how much the county has paid in the past for the recycling pulls, but we don’t know how much trash is generated from areas outside of the unincorporated county,” she said. “What we are after in the long run is a sustainable transfer station that works.” 

Anyone with specific questions or who would like to sign up for the Citizens’ Advisory Group should contact Holstrom at krish@sanmiguelcountyco.gov or 970-708-0933.