County looks to expand landfill

Margaret Allen
Heavy equipment operators Dean Klaus, on the ground, and Jim Younker, standing, change the oil Wednesday morning at the Ellis County Landfill on a compactor before they take it out for a day's work.

Ellis County is preparing for expansion of the county landfill, including with the purchase of 180 acres of land adjacent to its existing landfill.

The new acreage will make room for the growing amount of construction and demolition trash brought to the landfill just northwest of Hays at 1515 W. 55th St., according to county public works director Bill Ring.

The county struck a deal a year ago to buy the rocky pasture from John and Susan Karlin for $380,000 or $2,111 an acre. They wanted to sell the entire pasture, or not at all, Ring said.

“We’re doing a buy-out on it, paying him over the course of a few years. That’s how he wanted to be paid,” Ring said, noting the county just made the first residual payment.

The existing landfill, a 40-acre facility in place since the 1990s, is filling up with construction and demolition trash, basically shingles, remodeling drywall, two-by-fours and other non-metal building materials from construction jobs.

“Our business has been up 20% this year,” said landfill foreman Vern Ruder on Wednesday, noting the pandemic has given residents and businesses time to catch up on cleaning out and finishing up work. “We’re just running out of space.”

It used to be all the city’s trash was buried at the landfill, but since 1994 a contractor has hauled all the municipal waste to Finney County, while metals and tires are recycled.

“We have room for 50 to 100 years now,” said Ring, who recently asked the Hays City Commission to rezone the land from agriculture to a use that will allow a landfill.

This is the county’s first expansion of the landfill, and Ring predicted it will take another two years before the county moves to the new acreage. Getting the new site ready will take some engineering and construction. There’s also obtaining the required permitting from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, normally a yearlong process, and maybe longer during a pandemic, he said.

“We’re looking at rearranging the scale structure, once we expand,” he said, noting that with the single scale in the existing facility, traffic often gets backed up on to heavily traveled 55th, a county blacktop.

“With the expansion, we might build a different style of facility, where we would increase productivity for everyone; you wouldn’t spend near as much time in line,” Ring said. “We’re getting busier and busier. There’s often times, depending on the delay and the amount of traffic out there, the traffic backs up out onto 55th Street.”

By moving a new facility in further, the landfill could improve safety and have an additional 15 trucks in line, he said.

Ring said the concept will be presented to the Ellis County Commission to consider in a couple of months.

Finishing out the old construction and demolition facility will have to be done according to KDHE requirements, which requires layers of dirt covered with grass. And then building a new one will take time as well, he said, prepping the site and digging holes, then filling individual cells as C&D trash is brought in.

At Monday’s Ellis County Commission meeting, the commissioners approved a five-year extension to its contract with Inner Circle Trucking LLC, which hauls the municipal waste from the Ellis County municipal waste transfer station to the Finney County landfill.

Last year Inner Circle hauled 496 loads, some 11,327 tons of municipal waste, under the contract, at a cost of $318,340 to the county. That usually amounts to at least two loads a day, said Ruder, speaking to the county commissioners during their regular meeting Monday evening.

The rate will stay the same as the current contract, Ruder said, after talks with Inner Circle’s Clayton Befort.

“He said he’d be happy to extend it, if you guys would be willing to do that, at the same terms as the 2016 rates, which I think is a pretty good deal,” Ruder said.

Commissioner Dustin Roths asked the last time the contract was bid. That was year’s ago, when two other bids were received, one higher and one withdrawn, said Commissioner Dean Haselhorst.

Befort said Inner Circle will have hauled the county’s municipal trash for 15 years in April.

“He runs very high-quality equipment, his trucks are second-to-none,” said Haselhorst. “He does us a good job, and he has good equipment and good drivers.”

Solid waste clerk Kay Rohr cheks in Larry McArtor, La Crosse, who brought in household trash to the Ellis County Landfill on Wednesday morning.