Bruce Lumper of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has told Wallowa County Commissioner Mike Hayward that the county's 70-acre Ant Flat Landfill near Enterprise has the lowest per-ton dumping rate in the state at $25 a ton. He has encouraged Wallowa County to raise its rates, but Hayward is reluctant to do so.

"We want the garbage to end up in the landfill and not along the county roads," Hayward said. "We want to keep DEQ happy with our operations at the landfill. We will not raise our rates unless we have to."

Garbage can rates are $2.50 at Ant Flat and $3 per can at transfer sites in Wallowa, Lostine and Joseph. These compute to well above the $25 per ton rate for larger loads that are trucked in and weighed at Ant Flat.

According to Hayward, DEQ officials have told him that garbage rates across the state commonly run from $45 to $75 a ton, but a check with City Garbage Service in La Grande finds Union County's rates comparable to those in Wallowa County. According to a City Garbage Service spokesperson, Union County landfill users pay a minimum charge of $10 for the first 500 pounds of garbage, and $22 per ton thereafter.

The DEQ's Natural Resource Specialist Scott Fairley, based in Pendleton, said the highest dumping rate in the state is $80 per ton at Brookings, where all of the garbage is incinerated.

The biggest landfill user in Wallowa County is Rahn Sanitation Service, which contracts with the county to pick up garbage and recyclables from the three transfer stations, and makes weekly runs to Troy, Flora and Imnaha. The county pays Rahn to deposit that garbage at Ant Flat and the recyclables at the county recycling center on Fish Hatchery Lane, at the south end of Enterprise. Rahn also negotiates an annual fee with Wallowa County Public Works Director Russ McMartin that they will pay the county for deposits made at Ant Flat from their private garbage collection business.

The negotiated 2004-2005 rates show the county paying Rahn $38,445 for transfer site collections, $2,855 for dumpster rentals and $22,922 for its role in moving recyclables. Rahn pays the county $67,440 for dumping its privately collected garbage at the landfill. In cumulative dollars that means that Rahn could conceivably write the county a check for $3,218 at the end of the year.

Hayward said the negotiations are based on records from previous years and, though they will fluctuate from year to year, "will work out over a 10 year span of time. We don't know until the end of the year when we calculate tonnage what rate Rahn is paying for each ton." Based on the thinking that Rahn pays an established rate, Hayward concludes, "If he generates more garbage we lose, and if he generates less garbage we win."

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