A recent strategic master plan that offered suggestions regarding the operation of the West Garfield County Landfill may have fallen short in exploring the option of privatization, say at least two of the three county commissioners.
Commissioner John Martin acknowledged Monday that there is some valuable guidance contained in the Strategic Solid Waste Management Plan prepared by Northwest Colorado Consultants, an environmental and geotechnical consulting firm.
“But I think we need to make a change, and make the landfill a true enterprise,” he said, suggesting the county solicit formal proposals to turn the landfill operation over to a private contractor but maintain ownership of the facility.
“It’s time to take a business approach with the landfill, so that it can stand as a true enterprise with its own revenue,” Martin said. “I believe there’s a way to turn the landfill around so that it’s not a constant drain on its own resources.”
Any contract should include the option of retaining current, qualified county staff as part of the landfill operation, he also said.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he, too, would like to see more information about privatizing some or all of the operations at the landfill, which is located west of Rifle at Anvil Points. The county has operated the facility for more than 30 years.
“The only way I can make a good decision is to have all the facts in front of me, and I don’t feel like I have that,” Jankovsky said.
However, County Manager Andrew Gorgey cautioned the commissioners against seeking a private contractor to run the landfill without first following through on some of the master plan recommendations to which they already agreed.
After the master plan was presented earlier this year, the commissioners gave direction to proceed on several items including awarding a contract to construct special evaporation impoundments for septic waste.
The county is also looking at expanding solid (municipal) waste facilities and special facilities to treat and dispose of waste from the natural gas industry.
“We are working to come up with the best available numbers, and there is a process to get to what you are trying to pursue,” Gorgey said.
But seeking a private contractor at this stage may be premature, he said.
Jankovsky agreed a full-blown request for proposals (RFP) is probably not the best approach just yet.
“I would hate to see us go to a complete RFP unless we know that’s the direction we want to go,” Jankovsky said. “But I still feel like I haven’t seen the whole picture through the master plan.”
The third commissioner, Mike Samson of Rifle, has been less supportive of turning the landfill over to a private contractor. But he went along with Jankovsky’s motion to solicit a less-detailed request for information from private landfill operators that would outline some of the options.
Martin also supported the move, but said his ultimate goal is still to seek out a public/private partnership regarding landfill operations.
The commissioners will consider the formal request seeking information from private operators at the regular Aug. 4 Board of County Commissioners meeting.
Two other landfills serving the area, the Pitkin County Landfill and the city of Glenwood Springs-owned South Canyon Landfill, involve private contractors to handle all or parts of their operations.