City, County, Town meeting focuses on trash

County transfer station currently losing $30,000 to $40,000 per year

by Bob Kennemer
HUERFANO — Ever since the EPA passed the regulations in the late 1980s, known as Subtitle D, communities have had to either upgrade their landfills to meet new environmental standards, shut down, or find other ways to dispose of municipal waste.  The new regulations came about because it had become evident that every day household trash contained dozens, if not hundreds, of toxic substances.  Subtitle D was designed to prevent theses toxic materials from contaminating soil and ground water.
These new regulations were expensive, especially to small communities, costing tens of thousands of dollars a year to install monitoring wells, fences and more.  Shortly after Subtitle D went into effect, all the landfills in Huerfano County were forced to close, as were hundreds of others around the country.  Since then, Huerfano County has had a trash problem.
Numerous meetings were held around the county with citizens, along with local, state and federal officials.  Both La Veta and Walsenburg started recycling programs to reduce waste.  Various ideas were proposed:  Build a new county landfill.  Set up transfer stations.  Work with surrounding counties to build a regional landfill.
All of these plans were costly and all failed to emerge, although the county ultimately set up a transfer station as noted above.  Commercial trash haulers came in providing services to take local trash to landfills in Pueblo.
Now, in 2018, the same issues are being discussed by local leaders.  At the CCT meeting in Walsenburg on January 31, once again topics like recycling, burn piles and reduced price community clean-up events were brought up.  It is generally accepted that a new county landfill is too costly.  There also seems to be little to no interest in a regional landfill.  Huerfano County Administrator John Galusha is working on a grant to help to keep the transfer station open, which is seeing increased use.
Another concern is the high cost of disposing of construction wastes.  Yard wastes such as tree limbs and brush could be composted, chipped into mulch, or burned.  La Veta Mayor Doug Brgoch explained the town maintains a burn pile on land just south of town and allows residents to drop off yard wastes like branches, brush, and leaves.  Town board members volunteer to screen the dumping.  Then, weather and conditions permitting, the town gets a burn permit to burn the refuse.
La Veta also holds town clean up days every one to two years, where commercial roll off dumpsters are brought in and set up at the county fairgrounds on the east end of town.  Residents can then dispose of a variety of waste items to help clean and beautify the town.  The service is free but residents can pay an extra fee to dispose of items such as tires and appliances.  Additionally, the school’s Future Farmers of America organization maintains a roll off dumpster at the school where scrap metal can be dropped for recycling in Pueblo.
Commissioner Max Vezzani noted that scrap metal can be dropped at the current transfer station and the county gets a percentage to help offset costs.  The commissioners and other community leaders all supported solutions that would utilize or employ local contractors to help with these waste issues.  Walsenburg Mayor Jim Eccher said he would work with Pueblo to see if Huerfano County could piggyback with Pueblo for their annual household hazardous wastes disposal program.
All agreed that this is a complex and costly issue and there is a need to work together both locally and regionally.  More meetings are planned.
The CCT group then discussed planning and building issues.  Each entity has their own building inspector and it was discussed that maybe a regional building inspector would make the inspection process more streamlined.  Additionally, it was suggested that a regional planning and land use office might help with increased economic development, also by streamlining the process.
Brgoch said, “La Veta would be interested in a regional land use office.”  He added La Veta’s zoning and building inspection program are fine as is. La Veta also does its own code enforcement.  Brgoch agreed to discuss these ideas with the La Veta Town Board.  Galusha and Brgoch also agreed to have discussions to further define regional land use and related grants.

Elected officials from Walsenburg, La Veta and Huerfano County gathered on January 31, in Walsenburg, as part of the City, County, Town meeting, where major common issues are discussed. Other community leaders and citizens were on hand totaling more than 30 attendees. The topic of how to better deal with the issues of municipal solid waste and recycling were the main topics as currently the county transfer station is operating at a loss of $30,000 to $40,000 per year. A variety of ideas were discussed with strong support to employ local contractors as part of the solution. The CCT group also discussed the ideas of streamlining building inspections and regional land use. Photo by Bob Kennemer.