Commission discusses trash compactors with local officials
Updated: Aug 10
County Public Works Administrator Shaun West, top center, discusses the operation and costs associated with maintaining trash compactors in each community with representatives from those communities on Monday, May 22. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)
By Charlene Sims, Journal staff
MOUND CITY – On Monday, May 22, the Linn County Commissioners held a brief meeting about compactor sites with representatives from cities, lakes, and unincorporated areas.
County Counselor Gary Thompson started off the meeting telling the representatives that all of the contracts between the county and compactor site entities needed to be updated. The few contracts that were found were dated in the 1970s.
Thompson said he did not think that the commissioners had any interest in terminating the program but wanted to meet with the representatives to see if and what changes needed to be made to the contracts.
Public Works Director Shaun West told the representatives that since the commissioners are discussing and working on addressing problems at the landfill they decided to look a the aging agreements.
West said that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment required that all compactor sites had to be licensed as attachments to the transfer station and the landfill. West said that some sites are leased by the county and others are not. He would like to develop contracts that clarify responsibilities of the county and cities.
Pleasanton City Manager Teresa Whitaker began the cities’ input by first asking if the commissioners had the intention of closing the compactor sites.
Whitaker said that had learned over time that the contracts with all the entities were not equitable. Some locations received more financial help or assistance than others. She said she thought the contracts should be similar.
She said she would like to know whose responsibility it is for upkeep inside the gates.
Whitaker said that some of the city’s issues with the compactor are equipment failures and just the fact that it looks like a dump.
She noted that Pleasanton’s compactor was in the middle of the city park and she wanted to get that moved. She added that she didn’t think that should be a responsibility that solely lies on the city of Pleasanton.
“We don’t want it in the middle of our ball field,” said Whitaker. “ It would be great if we could move it to a place that isn’t where the kids are playing baseball or trying to fish. That is something we potentially would like to have addressed.”
Whitaker also asked why the city pays the wages of the compactor site when it is a county site. She said it was no big deal, but she was just curious about that. She also asked about the upkeep, inside and outside the gates.
What is the city supposed to be taking care of, she asked. She said that the city did not just have any clear, finite instructions on what it should do.
One other issue Whitaker said she would like information on is what the county wants the compactor operator to do with the out-of-county license plate numbers that he records.
Whitaker said the people of Pleasanton love having the compactor, but the county should consider the location.
Mound City consultant Josh Baldwin said that Mound City had taken ownership of the compactor site. The last contract they could find was dated Nov. 3, 1976.
He said that the city paid a full-time employee there and have taken great strides in cleaning it up. He said that the city just wanted to make sure that it was still going to be there and if it was a county thing. He said the city was concerned about what it was going to look like in the future.
Baldwin said the city was open for ideas and discussion and were grateful to have this meeting.
Linn Valley Councilman Lew Donelson asked why the commissioners were having the meeting today. He asked if it was because the county was spending too much money at the landfill or if the cities were failing to do something at our pickup sites.
He told the commissioners that the Linn Valley Property Owners Association (POA) runs the compactor site.
Pam Kyle of the POA from Linn Valley explained that the POA owns the compactor, and it is not manned. She said they allow the residents to run the compactor. She said that she and her husband run it almost every night.
Commission Chair Danny McCullough asked if that was the only unmanned compactor site. The commission learned that compactors at Sugar Valley and Tanglewood are also unmanned.
Kyle said that they often need two compactors on the weekends. And employees would often come up an change them out. She said they sometimes had to put trailers and dump trucks at the site for overflow.
Kyle said the POA pays for the repairs for it and does not get anything from the county. She said another complaint is that the new recycle bins do not get changed out enough.
Kyle thanked the county for providing rolloff containers for the spring cleanup at Linn Valley.
Russell Beth, Blue Mound mayor, expressed appreciation the county did maintain the sites for the cities. Beth said anytime the city had any issues with the site, they either got hold of solid waste or West and the issues were addressed in a very timely fashion.
Beth said that this is a service that needs to remain at the county level because cities would have to greatly increase their tax burden to cover the costs.
Parker city council president Jason Webber told the commissioners that the new Parker operator had cleaned up the site and changed the appearance. He said at there were a lot of breakdown issues, especially during the winter, and it would have to be closed down.
Brenda Conner, representing the Centerville Township spoke for the unincorporated town of Centerville. She said that she had talked with people about the importance of the compactor site, which was open for 11 hours per week.
She said she had also talked with trash haulers who pick up in the area about what they charge. East Central Kansas Refuse, which works in that area, charges $30 per month, and the company up north by Parker charges $60 month to pick up people’s trash.
She told the commissioners that the 30-plus people living in Centerville relied on the compactor. They would not be able to afford the cost of trash pickup.
She asked the commissioners what it would cost to set the trash hauling system so they would not have to take each compactor site individually.
Commissioner Jason Hightower said that the engineer had given them the cost of about $1.2 million dollars to set up a tipping floor system.
The tipping floor system would allow the county to dump all of the trash at the transfer station where it would be pushed into a walking floor trailer that could carry up to 24 tons. That would save the county numerous trips to the landfill.
McCullough said he thought that the compactor sites were an asset to the community and he has never said once that he wanted to take trash compactors away from the county.
Hightower said that he thought the commission needed to look at the entire solid waste plan and needed to budget for closing cells at the landfill.
Conner said that Linn County was not like a metro area, Miami County or Bourbon County. She asked the commissioners why they lived in Linn County and why did they keep wanting to change it.
Conner, as a school bus driver, expressed her dissatisfaction of the roads and road ditches. She said that the citizens of Linn County did not get a lot for the taxes they paid and that the compactor sites were one plus for the communities.
Thompson explained that there were three different types of compactor sites in the county. There’s the sites that are related to cities, to lake developments and then there is the county-owned site for Centerville.
At the Centerville site, the county provides all the facilities, the land and hires the worker.
Thompson said at the city sites, the city provides the facility, the city hires the worker, and the county rents the land, at least in theory.
At the lake sites, Thompson said he was unclear about how it works. He said he thought the property owner’s association provides the sites and the equipment and the county just hauls it. Each of these three types of sites works differently.
He said the commissioners were trying to get a grasp on that figure out the best way to make it consistent and to work well for everybody. They are not out to cut anything from you he told the audience.
West told the commissioners and audience that just the tonnage cost for the trash at Arcadia was $12,000 to $13,000 per month. The maintenance of the equipment that hauls it, the fuel and the manpower have to be added to that.
West explained that this is the opposite of other counties. Linn County has commercial haulers haul trash to the county site near Prescott and pay for dumping at the transfer site.
However, he said the trash the county has to pay to dump the trash from the compactors. In most every other county, haulers are bringing to a transfer station and paying for their tonnage.
He said our system is unique among solid waste systems. It is very convenient for everyone of your communities.
“What’s brought us to this table is the fact that, as a community, we share a unique system that does not pay for itself,” said West.
Hightower asked about the possible consolidation of sites, like the landfill compactor and the Prescott compactor. He said when he looks at the amount of tonnage for the different sites Centerville and Prescott have the least amount of trash.
Prescott Mayor Kevin Wood said that it was difficult for people to take their trash to the transfer station compactor because they had to back in.
The tonnage for the year 2022 by site is:
• 1,508 tons from the landfill (this includes the trash haulers and individuals who take trash there)
• 566 tons Pleasanton
• 560 tons Linn Valley
• 505 tons Mound City
• 430 tons La Cygne
• 286 tons Parker
• 225 tons Sugar Valley
• 134 tons Blue Mound
• 124 tons Tanglewood
• 65 tons Prescott
• 60 tons Centerville
• 4,464 tons TOTAL
McCullough asked each location to get back with the commission about how their operation works. He asked them to tell the county what you would like to see and how important it is to you. He asked that they turn in this information to West or Assistant Public Works Director Jessica Hightower.
Thompson asked that if any of the cities have an old contract to please send it in to the commission.