Crow Tribe signs contract with Republic Services for solid waste disposal
Thu, 07/14/2016 - 5:00am admin
By Andrew Turck, Big Horn County News
Republic hopes we will be able to extend the contract with the tribe into 2017.” – Jennifer Eldridge, Republic Services
Trash bins and carts are scheduled to return to the Crow Reservation on Thursday, July 14 after a two-week hiatus, thanks to a contract agreement between the Crow Tribe and Republic Services. The tribe’s previous contract with Big Horn County expired on July 1, followed by the county removing the bins from its reservation dump sites.
Entering the Crow Agency dump site Friday afternoon – closed a week previous – one could already see indications of nearby civilization. Garbage bags were strewn about the empty concrete platform, along with a broken refrigerator, stroller, child’s bicycle, fireworks and a decorative basket. Overlooking the scene of assorted garbage, flies and birds was the head of an doll atop a fencepost with hair reminiscent of an ‘80s metal band.
A sign at the back of the site, obscured by graffiti, instructed community members to take all dumping materials to the Hardin landfill.
Once Republic cleans up the area, trash will be collected on Thursdays, the same day as the previous service schedule.
The Republic contract was signed Friday morning and ends Dec. 31.
“Republic looks forward to serving the Crow Tribe,” stated Jennifer Eldridge of Republic’s corporate communications. “We are committed to making waste disposal effortless for our customers, and keeping our communities clean and beautiful.
“Republic hopes we will be able to extend the contract with the tribe into 2017.
Locations designated for dump site containers include Wyola, St. Xavier, Fort Smith, Pryor and Crow Agency. Cart services will also be maintained in Pryor and Crow Agency. The tribe is not associated with other sites that were eliminated in Lodge Grass, North Valley and the Tongue River Marina – those closures remain unchanged.
“The Crow Tribe and Republic have been in negotiations for some time now on how to develop a solid waste service that best serves the Crow Reservation,” Crow Chairman Darrin Old Coyote stated in a Friday press release. “The discussions led to the conclusion that a restructuring of the solid waste program on the reservation is needed in order to reduce the cost burden to the tribe and efficiently remove trash from the reservation.”
Eldridge stated that only tribal members will be allowed to use the sites, and tribal officials were unavailable for comment as to cost or whether options would be available for non-Indian use. County residents are allowed to use the Hardin landfill for free, though this location is about 80 miles from both Decker and Pryor, 50 miles from Wyola, 40 miles from Fort Smith and 35 miles from Lodge Grass.
Over the course of three years, the Crow Tribe had accumulated an $804,860 debt to the county in solid waste fees that has not yet been paid. The Town of Lodge Grass, for its part, hasn’t paid its disposal fee since 1991; the charge for 2015-16 is $42,130. The shutdown comes a full year after the county originally intended to stop services in July 2015.
Those who had paid the bill in 2015 included Fort Smith, Pryor and Crow Agency schools; the Little Bighorn Battlefield; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; the Indian Health Service; and the Town of Wyola. Others who had not paid included the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Lodge Grass and St. Xavier schools, and Little Big Horn College.
Old Coyote, at the time, said the tribe was being taxed twice in the solid waste process, once as a member of the county and once as a tribal member.
“I don’t know how they came up with the 76 percent that the tribe is to pay,” Old Coyote said shortly before the 2015 shutdown attempt. “I want to revise the contract to make it fairer to us and to the taxpayers.”
According to Old Coyote’s press release, a “restructured and improved solid waste program” is expected to start in January.