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City of Rocks

A view from the City of Rocks in Cassia County

BURLEY — Officials at the City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Parks are mulling how to handle solid waste in the future after it received notice from the solid waste district of a $2,000 yearly fee increase and was informed it could no longer use the park’s trash compactor at the roll-off station.

The Cassia County Commission temporarily granted a waiver of the fee increase and the rule for using compactor at the station for a year at a Monday meeting. The waiver was granted until July 2019.

The commissioners plan to review the issue next spring.

Parks Superintendent Wallace Keck told commissioners that the parks and the county by law have a “mutually beneficial partnership” and the fee increase is “an unfunded mandate.” The park’s 2019 budget has already been set.

The trash compactor is an $85,000 piece of equipment, and the parks have used it for 18 years. They will now have to buy a trailer or build one.

“We are pleased with the commissioners’ decision to give us time to study the issue,” Keck said Thursday. “But, we won’t wait a year to come up with a strategy.”

A couple of options are increasing areas of the park that have a pack-it-in, pack-it-out policy, which will shift the trash burden that was being handled at the park to somewhere else.

“People will then look for the first empty can or bin they can find,” Keck said.

Last year the park received 262,000 visits to the parks.

They are also considering selling colored orange bags to manage waste, which would generate some revenue to offset the additional costs.

Keck said by law the park is a partner with Cassia County and benefits the county in many ways.

“There is $5.9 million spent in Cassia County because of the parks,” he said, and the park chooses to pay property taxes for portions of Castle Rocks because officials knew it would be part of the waste stream.

Another option for the park to offset the additional waste fees may be to shift some of the funding the park now contributes to the upkeep of the county’s roads and bridges.

Commissioner Paul Christensen, who represents the county on the Southern Idaho Waste District’s board, said during the meeting that commercial haulers are not allowed to empty trash compactors at roll-off stations because heavy equipment is not at the stations to handle it. And in fairness to the other commercial haulers, the waiver would not be permanent.

“We are not a commercial hauler and for 18 years we’ve been doing this procedure,” Keck said.

Keck said the parks does not generate revenue from the waste and should be “grandfathered in.”

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The compactor, he said, pushes the bulk of the material into the roll-off station with just a little cleanup and sweeping afterward.

There is no more work involved than a person taking a trailer load of trash to the station, he said.

Josh Bartlome, CEO with the waste district, said during the meeting the district officials knew there would be some issues uncovered with the new fee schedule.

“We built the new fee schedule to start fresh,” Bartlome said.

This situation at the park “flew under the radar,” he said, and it represents the types of situations the district was trying to uncover.

“We knew we’d have to deal with situations like that,” he said.

Commissioner Tim Darrington said he favored granting the waiver but encouraged the park to figure out how the garbage would be handled in the future.

Keck said the park also recycles trash from individuals and businesses in the valley, which generates just enough revenue to offset the costs of doing it.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” he said.

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