Trash compromise denied

Taxpayers stuck with two bills for same service

A dispute over trash collection at the Public Safety Center has landed the sheriff and county commissioners in a stink over turf and the taxpayers with two contracts providing the same service to one facility.

But an attempt by County Commissioner Les Hampton to kill the building's newest contract for the service smells worse to Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead.

"I take exception to anyone trying to handle sheriff's department business," said Grinstead.

The sheriff in late December signed a one-year deal with the city of Craig for trash service at the Public Safety Center. Grinstead said he approached the city in November about providing trash collection after Moffat County department heads were asked to reduce budgets by three percent.

Grinstead took an ax to a $4,500 line-item in the fiscal year 2002 budget for trash collection at the facility.

Initial talks with Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta led to the deal with the city: one dumpster, serviced by the city twice a week, for $1,600 over 2003, according to Randy Call, Craig's director of solid waste collection.

The sheriff called existing service provider Waste Management to come pick up their Dumpster.

Not so fast.

Hampton -- in telephone call late last week -- requested that the Public Safety Center be "let out" of Grinstead's deal, according to Jim Ferree, Craig city manager.

"He indicated they had a three-year contract (with Waste Management) for all of their facilities," Ferree said.

Hampton confirmed contact with Ferree on the issue, but said he hasn't read the fine print of Grinstead's deal.

Debra Murray, Moffat County administrative services director, said Moffat County's deal with Waste Management runs through 2004.

"It's not like trash had been piling up there," Hampton said. "I have no problem (with department heads pursuing contracts) when it expires, but to be responsible you need to know what services already exist."

"They've said we have a deal and we're not going to let you out of it," Murray said.

Grinstead insists while negotiating with the city he was unaware of the county's three-year deal.

Meanwhile, the city contract stands as far as Grinstead and the city are concerned.

Ferree said he would release the sheriff's deal if city trash collection proved higher in cost to previous services.

"If we provide cheaper service as a taxpayer I would want them to utilize us," he said, adding that Grinstead's authority to negotiate the deal is not in question.

"I'm statutorily responsible for my budget," Grinstead said. "We were told to make cuts, we made them and here we are getting the rug pulled out from under us again."

The situation will be the subject of ongoing discussion at the Jan. 20 county commissioners meeting.

Craig holds waste removal accounts for 2,524 residential customers and 388 commercial users, according to Call. Waste collection and landfill fees generate roughly $600,000 annually for the city.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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