Conejo Transfer Station hours cut due to mechanical and fire difficulties

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Trash services at the Conejo Transfer Station hit a bit of a snag earlier this month, due to two trailers being out of commission — one due to usual wear and tear, the other due to fire.

During a recent meeting, Commissioner Georgia Otero-Kirkham asked the county manager why the county was "on the news again."

County Manager Bruce Swingle said several residents called an Albuquerque television station to complain about frequent closures of the transfer station.

Swingle said during September and October there were several times Conejo was closed due to windy conditions. However, the most recent closures were due to a shortage of trailers.

Usually, the transfer station has three trailers in operation. One is set up for waste to be dumped into and when it's full, it is taken to the land fill and an empty is brought in to take its place.

"It's supposed to be a seamless process to keep the trash moving and get customers in and out," Swingle said.

Unfortunately, one of the three trailers was out of commission with significant mechanical problems, putting the station down to two trailers.

Then over the weekend of Oct. 13, "someone torched a trailer," Swingle said.

Come that Monday, the county found itself in a Catch 22. Environmental regulations prohibited the dumping of the burned trash at the transfer station so the trailer could be evaluated and the trailer couldn't be transported because it might not be operational — something only an evaluation by county maintenance staff could determine.

Down to one trailer, Swingle said the transfer station had to close for two to three hours at a time to allow for the collected trash to be dumped at the landfill.

"And again, because of state regulations, we can't let people continue dumping trash if it's not into a trailer," Swingle said. "They can't just drop it off and have us scoop it into a trailer later."

Earlier this month, the county did get permission from the state to drop the burned trash at the transfer station so maintenance could evaluate the trailer, the manager said. He added that staff was able to get the trailer with the mechanical problems up and going and back to Conejo.

In the mean time, a request for proposal for curb side trash pick up is moving forward. In addition to the curb side program, the successful contractor will be responsible for the operation of Conejo.

Swingle said the RFP process is moving forward and is on time. Proposals are due at the end of the month.

In other action, the commissioners:

• Approved a resolution accepting an additional 10 feet of right of way on Journey Circle. The county currently maintains a 30-foot width of the roadway; the additional 10 feet will bring it up to county standards.

• Approved a capital appropriation from the state for $150,000 to build an on-site spay and neuter clinic at the animal shelter.

• The process of incorporation for Rio Communities took another step forward when the commissioners unanimously approved the census and petition for the incorporation.

Otero-Kirkham asked who coordinated and paid for the election, the county or the Rio Communities Association, the neighborhood association spearheading the incorporation effort.

RCA President Mark Gwinn said the clerk's office would run the election and as far as who paid for what, "We will work that out."

In a follow-up interview, County Clerk Sally Perea said state statutes on incorporation do not specify which entity pays for the election.

The incorporation vote will be held on Jan. 8.

• Under discussion items, Otero-Kirkham took up the subject of the county's healthy indigent fund balance — currently it stands at more than $2.7 million.

"Why are we not using this to add more people, more programs, maybe do higher reimbursement rates," she asked. Swingle said the commissioners have the authority to designate other uses.

"We wanted to use it to pay health care providers in the jail, but statute doesn't allow it," he said. "But we can bill for every one of the inmates. We can take very aggressive action to bill every thing we can to indigent."

Gentry suggested the county consider suspending the portion of county-wide GRT that funds the indigent fund, since there was such a large balance, and set a balance amount that would trigger its reinitiation.

"Hopefully, at some point the two hospitals in Valencia County will use the indigent funds," he said.

Swingle said the county could expand services, which it can immediately control.

"If the expenses exceed what we want, we can bring it back to what we have now," he said.

Otero-Kirkham said she would like to see services such as dental, vision and medical education added.

Las Maravillas resident Mike Wood said there were a lot of residents who couldn't afford vision or dental coverage, but did have medical coverage.

"Now you're looking at giving more away," Wood said. "Now I'm a compassionate person, but you might as well put a big ad in the Journal saying, 'Hey, come to Valencia County,'" Wood said. "You are turning this into a welfare county."


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.