Lewis Clark Recycling and Disposal, LLC spoke to the Fremont County Landfill Board on Jan. 16 about the possibility of leasing the landfill and turning it into a transfer station.
Rick Turbeville, Vice President of Operations, and Jeffrey Kendall, Chief Executive Officer of Lewis Clark told the board a little about their background and operations, and let them know they own the operations in Shenandoah, Red Oak, Malvern and Omaha, as well as others in Illinois, and the transfer stations in Nebraska City, Neb. and Tarkio, Mo. are their contracted customers.
Kendall talked about the difficulties of running a small landfill like Fremont County’s, where income is based on the amount of trash that comes in, and it might not be enough to pay the expenses.  He told the board it would make sense for Fremont County (and Lewis Clark) to build a transfer station there instead.  For Lewis Clark this would be an opportunity to increase the volume of trash they receive, lowering their costs, and enabling them to grow.  
A transfer station would still take in trash from the county’s residents and haulers, just like the landfill did, but instead of the trash being buried on-site, it would be held, loaded on trucks, and hauled to another, larger, landfill (owned by Lewis Clark), most likely the Loess Hills Landfill in Malvern.  Kendall explained the operation they were proposing would be much like the transfer station in Red Oak.
While Lewis Clark and the board all acknowledged these discussions were just preliminary and much additional research would need to be done, Kendall and Turbeville described their basic idea as follows:
1. Lewis Clark would buy the landfill’s equipment from the county, which should pay off any debt the county owes on the equipment.
2. Lewis Clark would bond for and cover post closure costs for the landfill of around $700,000.
3. Lewis Clark would lease the landfill property from the county and build a transfer station on site, taking over operations there as a transfer station rather than a landfill.  There would be no actual lease payment since Lewis Clark would be paying post closure costs.
4. The county could continue to collect the yearly per capita fee of around $120,000 for however long they wished to pay off any remaining debt on the landfill.
Landfill board members asked about the landfill’s employees, and Lewis Clark expressed an interest in hiring current landfill manager Casey Moyer to continue to run operations there, but said they would probably only need one employee on-site.  They did say they were always looking for truck drivers if landfill employee Travis Shenefield was interested.
Kendall told the board the State of Iowa would probably love to see the landfill close as they don’t really like small landfills.  He and Turbeville assured the group that any services the landfill is now providing to Fremont County would still continue; the waste would just be deposited elsewhere.
Some members of the group questioned why Fremont County shouldn’t just build their own transfer station to operate instead of a landfill.  Kendall and Turbeville suggested trash taken in by Lewis Clark could be hauled elsewhere, making it difficult for Fremont County to get enough trash through the gates to sustain its costs.  Right now the county has a 28E agreement that requires trash from the county to go to the county’s landfill.  However, if trash is hauled across a state line, say down to Tarkio or over to Nebraska City, the 28E agreement has no control over where the trash is actually deposited.
Lewis Clark said they would want to do additional research and talk to the landfill’s engineers further about potential costs, and the landfill board requested a specific written proposal from Lewis Clark to consider.
Upon reviewing the Lewis Clark proposal, should the landfill board be interested in proceeding, next steps would involve, among other things:
1.  the landfill board voting to proceed;
2.  the city councils of each town in Fremont County voting to approve the change, and
3.  the board of supervisors voting to approve the change.
Turbeville and Kendall said they would get a written proposal or letter of interest with more details to the landfill board before their Feb. 13 meeting.
In a phone interview Jan. 18, Cindy Turkle, Senior Environmental Professional with Turkle-Clark Environmental Consulting, who has been working with the Fremont County Landfill for 10 or more years, expressed concerns about the proposal from Lewis Clark.
Turkle pointed out the county will need to monitor the landfill for an additional 30 years, and is generally expected to show they have the money to do so up front.  
Closure itself, which is different from post-closure, is expected to cost $1,000,000 or more.  
If the offer from Lewis Clark is accepted as-is, the county would only have $120,000 per year from the per capita fee to pay for any expenses that might arise.  Items that were dumped at the landfill 40 years ago could create expensive contamination issues now, or the DNR could change regulations.  
Turkle said when the landfill closes, if issues arise, the responsible parties will be the owner first, then the landfill board, then the county, then the cities.  She also pointed out the money put aside by the landfill board every year for closure/post closure costs has been insufficient, so is guaranteed by the county, so the county would be expected to cover any shortfall.  
Turkle suggested the landfill board not rush into anything, get an attorney knowledgeable in solid waste regulations to review any offer and possible consequences, and the board should consider the long-term environmental requirements and their potential costs.
“Based on what I have been told by landfill staff regarding the details of the proposal as-is,” Turkle cautioned, “this is not a good deal for the landfill board and the county’s residents.”