Transfer site to close Dec. 31

Jason Ferguson
By Jason Ferguson
If you’ve got any old junk from a spring cleaning or remodeling project lying around at home, circle Dec. 31 on your calendar.
That is the final day the Sander Sanitation transfer site will be open after the Custer City Council unanimously approved an addendum to its contract with Sander for residential solid waste collection and disposal, an addendum that allows Sander to close the transfer site in exchange for lowering the cost for the city by $1 per residential unit for trash disposal.
Mayor Corbin Herman said the proposed contract exchange was discussed by the city’s general government committee, which recommended approval of the addendum. The contract will remain a five-year pact that begins Jan. 1, 2020, and expires Dec. 31, 2024.
The addendum also states that on one consecutive Friday and Saturday in the spring and an optional weekend in the fall if deemed necessary by the city, the city in cooperation with Sander will schedule a clean-up weekend to allow city residents to discard certain items at no charge. The city will pay Sander for the clean-up days.
City council members said they were contacted by constitutents who were concerned about the transfer site closing, especially the loss of the opportunity to recycle.
Sander owner Fred Folsom, who was at the meeting, said recycling is an economic challenge, since China no longer imports recycling, a move he said “crushed” American recycling. Folsom said recycling once brought in $30-$50 a ton for cardboard, but now it costs a company $30 a ton to get rid of cardboard. He said the recycling industry is canceling services and initiating fees to combat the rising cost of recycling.
Folsom wrote in a letter to the city that Sander is losing $5,000-$7,000 a month by operating the transfer site.
“I hear the concerns,” he said. “But I can’t subsidize the recycling efforts here. I just can’t. People who value (recycling) are going to miss it. I don’t want to minimize that.”
City resident and former alderwoman Sandy Arseneault, who was present at the meeting, voiced her concern about city residents now being forced to take pickup loads of trash to Rapid City or Edgemont for disposal. Arseneault said the city already had made a number of concessions to the new owner when Sander Sanitation was purchased from former owner Tim Sander, including a more strict following of the minimum contract requirements of hours of operation for the transfer site and the closing of the local Sander office. These, she said, made it harder to contact the company.
“My service has been less than stellar since this company took over,” she said, adding that the new ownership of Sander is poor at communication and changes garbage collection times without notifying customers. 
She relayed stories of her ongoing frustration with earlier and earlier garbage pickup times and the timeframe for garbage pickup not being adhered to. She said the situation has devolved into her home being forced to put its trash out at night, which leads to animals digging in the trash and making a mess.
“The less than stellar service has me concerned,” she said, adding allowing Sander to close the transfer site is another concession and inconvenience on top of the other ones the city has already dealt with.
Folsom said he and the city have investigated ways to keep the transfer site open since July and anyone with issues with the company or trash collection are free to call him and he will rectify the situation.
“I don’t get very many customer complaints,” he said. “I’m proud of the reputation we have.”
Alderwoman Jeannie Fischer encouraged city residents who have issues with trash collection to also notify the city.
On the recycling front, Herman said the city would investigate ways to continue recycling. Folsom said Sander could be a resource to help with that investigation. Folsom said the city of Deadwood is experimenting with curbside recycling once a month, for which the city foots the bill and buys the totes. Base cost of trash collection for the city also rose to $21 per residence for the service. Deadwood residents choose whether or not they want to participate in the program.
Folsom said a drop center for recycling is not recommended in Custer because so many county people simply throw their trash in the dumpsters at a drop center, no matter how much they label it as recycling only. The city tried drop centers in the past with minimal success for that reason.
Folsom said any recycling effort the city tries has to be strategic and accessible to be effective.
“Everyone is trying to deal with the economics the best way they can,” he said. “It does not pay for itself. It just doesn’t.”
The council kicked around the idea of surveying city residents to see how many would be interested in a program such as the one being tried in Deadwood. Folsom said a 20 percent buy-in is a reasonable goal.
Alderwoman Nina Nielsen said the city cannot  take over the transfer site because it cannot afford to be in the transfer site or garbage business.
“Things change, and it’s too bad,” she said.
Arseneault asked if closing the transfer site could be done in phases instead of so abruptly. She said she was unaware Sander was considering closing the transfer site until she read it in last week’s issue of the Chronicle.
“Taking care of the people of this town is important,” she said.
Herman pointed out again the issue has been discussed since summer, and if there was a lack of information about the issue to the public he would “shoulder the blame.” Herman said he believes the addendum takes care of the people in the city as best as the city can under the circumstances.

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