County plans to privatize solid waste clean up

TV Hagenah

Quay County Commissioners let it be known Monday they are serious about getting out of the trash business. They held an open meeting to discuss dropping the solid waste collection business.

The thing they found was that no one at the meeting disagreed with them. At the beginning of the meeting each commissioner, Grace Madrid, Franklyn McCasland and Jeff Lewalling, explained the stand of the commissioners regarding the hundreds of thousands of dollars lost annually by the county collecting trash. Lewalling pointed out that only two other counties in New Mexico collect their own trash and Quay County Manager Terry Turner added that only one of those is in fact entirely happy with that arrangement.

Turner said Harding County, to Quay County’s north, used to collect their own but they have quit and no one at all is collecting it any more, individual or government entity.
Commissioners said there were a number of difficulties associated with solid waste collection, over and above the cost to the county to hire personnel to collect the trash. In Quay County, members of the county road crew do the collection.

Commissioners agreed that one of the biggest problems is that every rural resident of the county is billed for collection and at least 40 percent of them are not paying that bill. Further there is little or no method of enforcement to make individuals pay their billed collection fees.
Lewalling said also that there are indications that city residents are taking advantage of the county’s dumpsters to dump their trash thus causing work and expense for the county.

Audience member Michael Martin of Nara Visa who runs Tal Trash Service said as state and federal laws become more and more stringent, which they are scheduled to do, the costs for the county will grow higher and higher and the county’s debt will grow in the same fashion.
Martin who handles much of the trash in Union county said he charges a flat rate to rural residents of roughly $30 per month per dumpster to dispose of their trash.

“We can’t just dig a hole and bury it or burn it like we used to when we were young,” said Lewalling. “There are just too many laws on the books that won’t let you do that,” said Martin. Martin said that it was immaterial to him how many shared a dumpster as long as he got paid the assigned fee each month. If he does not get the fee, he removes the dumpster. A number of people in the audience pointed out that they have been suggesting the county get out of the trash business and privatize it for at least a decade.
“I told you that more than ten years ago,” said Quay County resident Merlin Terry.