Former mayor urges town to pursue greater efficiency before increasing rates

Nathan Oster

A former mayor, councilman and town employee urged members of the Greybull Town Council on Monday night to pursue greater operational efficiency before asking town residents to pay more for their sewer and sanitation services.
The appropriateness of the rates that support the town’s three primary enterprise funds came up at the October meeting, which ended with the council contemplating an 18-percent hike in its sewer rate and a 3-percent increase in its sanitation rate.  
James Seckman, the CPA who audited the town’s books for the fiscal year that ended in June, recommended increases of some kind in those two rates.
Bob Graham isn’t convinced that’s the case — particularly when it comes to sanitation.
“Nobody in the county knows more about garbage than I do,” he said, citing the 15 years he worked on the town crew, followed by his service on the town council and as mayor, on the county landfill board and at the landfill itself, where he works in the transfer station and has driven the transport truck.  
“You should see what comes in and what I haul to Cowley,” he said.
The biggest problem, he said, is cardboard.  At one time not too long ago, it was collected and hauled to the recycling center.  But with that facility closed, all of the cardboard ends up in dumpsters and eventually, at the landfill.
Yard waste is another problem, he said.  When it ends up at the landfill — either because residents put it in household dumpsters or the town truck operator mixes what’s collected in the yard waste and household dumpsters — it significantly adds to the weight of the truck, which in turns, results in a higher bill for the town.
“I’ve complained about it a half dozen times over the years,” Graham said, admitting that it “irritates the heck” out of him.   “People may think leaves and grass don’t weight that much, but try putting a tarp in the back of a pickup, placing leaves and grass on top, and then see if you can pull the tarp out.”
Graham said the town paid the solid waste board $101,000 between March 1 and Sept. 1.
“If 5 percent of that is yard waste — and to me, from what I see, it’s a lot more than 5 percent — well that’s $5,000 we could have saved. Instead of having $4,500 in reserves, we could have had $10,000 in reserves.”
Graham also questioned the wisdom of prohibiting the bagging of yard waste, saying, “I don’t know why that was decided.”   It makes separating the yard waste from the regular trash much easier and the bags will burn, he pointed out.
Graham used his appearance to promote the landfill.  For one, metal can be left there, free of charge. “If you have an air conditioner or a boiler or whatever it is, don’t throw it in the dumpster,” he said. They’ll let you throw it in the metal pile for free.”
The landfill also has a dumpster for big-game carcasses.  They are disposed of through a contract overseen by Game and Fish.   It far better than placing those carcasses in household dumpsters around town.
He credited the town’s clerks over the years for building and maintaining the enterprise funds. “I can remember when I went to work for the town in 1991, there were no reserves in the enterprise funds. If we wanted a new garbage truck, we had to go to the bank.”
Graham’s bottom-line message to the council was this:  “If we could be more efficient in our operation, we could save enough money to be able to put more in reserves and not have to raise rates.”