The agency that supports Special Olympics in Hays is spending a good deal of money hauling trash to Ellis County’s municipal waste transfer station.
The nonprofit would like to dump it for free like other non-profit organizations, said Jim Huenergarde, board president for the local Arc chapter.
The problem is due to a big jump in donated household goods that can’t be sold but that are dropped off at Arc of Central Plains locations.
Even recycling as much as possible doesn’t ease the problem, Huenergarde told the Ellis County Commissioners on Monday evening at their regularly scheduled meeting in the Ellis County Administrative Center.
“What facilitated this was stuff being left at our back door,” he said. “We recycle every possible thing that we can. What we can’t move — the ones that dump off the large mattresses, the couches and chairs, old dilapidated tables — those take extra effort and time to find someone who will pick them up and haul them out.”
It’s inherent in the business that Arc is going to get a lot of donations that go to the dump, Huenergarde said.
“We’ve increased the size of our dumpster, and drop-offs right now have increased from 165 to 225 a month,” he said. “It’s those big items that get dumped off that we can’t do anything with, that are just trash.”
Arc’s request spurred Ellis County Public Works Director Bill Ring to ask the County Commissioners how they want to handle the county’s free dumping policy for nonprofits. Some non-profits have dropped off free since at least July 2003, the last time the Ellis County policy was updated.
Ring asked the commissioners if they want to cap the number of dollars a nonprofit can drop off, or perhaps not permit any free dumping at all, since Ellis County ships its trash to a landfill in another county.
“With municipal waste, we have an inherent cost, because it costs us approximately two-thirds of what we’d normally collect because we have to pay to ship it to Garden City,” Ring said. “And then we pay tipping fees at the scale down there. So if we take it in for free, it’s costing us some dollars.”
Both Harvey County and Riley County also have transfer stations, Ring said, “and they don’t give anybody a break — not churches, not Goodwill.”
Ring recommended the Ellis County policy should include a requirement there be updated lists of authorized dumpers for any nonprofit. That would prevent people fraudulently dumping by pretending to be part of an authorized nonprofit when they aren’t.
With a list of names, county employees could verify anyone dumping with an authorized employee of the nonprofit.
Ellis County Commissioner Barb Wasinger spoke out in favor of free dumping, but with a master list.
“With volunteer organizations, such as the Arc, we’re talking about $2,500 in 18 months, we’re not talking about a tremendous amount of money,” she said. “I think particularly with the skill level you all have, you need to have a list at the landfill with authorized names and telephone numbers.”
She said she wants to encourage volunteer organizations to continue to do the work they do, and not penalize them with fees.
Ring said anyone using the county’s transfer station should be required to recycle, to reduce the cost to the county.
“If we continue this program, the city of Hays has a beautiful recycling facility directly across the street, so there are many items that probably — and citizens should do that anyway with the cardboards, the glass, the plastics, etc. — that they can take it right across the street,” Ring said. “We would put it back on the people coming in that if they do want to dump something, they need to separate prior to, because we don’t have the facility, we don’t have the people for it.”
Ellis County Commissioner Marcy McClelland and Wasinger agreed.
“There needs to be the caveat that things need to be separated, prior to them being brought to the landfill,” Wasinger said. “I don’t think that’s unreasonable to ask people to do that in order to help our landfill not be overburdened as well.”
In other business, the commissioners approved a creation of a permanent employee advisory committee. The county in December 2017 opted out of its labor unions, so a committee ensures county employees will have input into policies covering wages and benefits for the county’s 180 employees. Monday evening the County Commissioners passed a resolution creating a five-member advisory committee.
County employees will elect members to the advisory committee, which in turn will be set up by January, said County Administrator Phillip Smith-Hanes.