ELKO — In addition to paying for their own garbage services, county residents paid more than $100,000 over the past two years to cover waste removal for those who refused to pay their bills.
The county commission recently moved about $101,000 from a capital project fund to pay for solid waste disposal. The county contracts waste removal services for multiple sanitation districts that don’t have their own dumps. Many residents in the district that encompass Montello and Pilot Valley simply don’t pay their waste bill, leaving everyone else to pick up the tab, according to County Assistant Manager Cash Minor.
Minor wasn’t sure how many residents in the Montello-Pilot Valley sanitation district weren’t paying, but estimated it to be “a lot of people.”
The commission begrudgingly approved the reappropriation Monday.
“We’ve got to do something about this,” Commissioner Charlie Myers said. “I know you can’t shut off the service, I guess, because of the type of service it is, but there are liens and things like that.”
He said it wasn’t fair for county taxpayers to pay for garbage service in an outlying community.
“Some people choose not to participate in it or choose not to pay their bill, and somebody else is paying for them. I feel like we’re in Obamaland right now,” Myers said.
Minor said regulations passed in the late 1990s required small landfills to adhere to certain standards. At that time, the county closed many landfills and created sanitation districts. The county began contracting garbage-hauling services and sent residents the bill.
Commissioner Grant Gerber, who frequently criticizes federal policy, said government regulations are primarily to blame.
“Montello should be able to have their own solid waste pit. They shouldn’t have to haul all of that clear to Elko. It makes no sense. It’s never made any sense,” he said.
Gerber suggested the county send an annual letter to the area’s congressional delegation arguing that point.
“If enough people complain about it enough times, we will eventually get it turned,” he said.
Commissioner Jeff Williams wondered why the county couldn’t refuse to collect garbage until bills were paid. Myers said if no one collects garbage the residents will dump trash illegally — for which there is little recourse unless the individual is caught in the act.
“That becomes an issue for the county,” Myers said.
“Frankly, in 1998 when it was first changed, you saw some of that. People were dumping garbage,” Minor said after the meeting.
Myers suggested the commission explore solutions with county attorney Kristin McQueary.
“We need to have it as an agenda item and give us our options,” Commission Chairman Glen Guttry said. “... People in the city shouldn’t be subsidizing. All of us are subsidizing other folks that don’t play by the rules.”