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Commissioners, residents discuss trash problems

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Chaves County resident Jeneva Martinez says she took this photo at the Railroad Avenue waste site on July 9. County Manager Bill Williams says that trash can pile up, especially on weekends, but that crews usually can clean it up within a few days. The county wants a regional landfill of its own as a long-term solution. (Submitted Photo)

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The county’s problem of trash piling up at waste sites on some days in recent months had quite a few people talking during a recent Chaves County Board of Commissioners meeting, with Sheriff Mike Herrington saying that he intends to arrest people caught dumping stuff outside containers.

The Thursday meeting of commissioners included county residents supporting the future development of a county landfill as a long-term solution and commissioners talking about getting a number of calls from county residents about waste piling up at some of the county’s five waste disposal sites in recent weeks, especially after the May 30 flooding event.

That’s when county officials decided to remove the eight open-top bins from two of their sites so that the bins could be moved to other places in the county to allow residents to dump materials ruined by the May and July floods.

The two sites that had bins — at Ojibwa and Miller roads and Railroad Avenue near East Pine Lodge — still have trash compactors on them, as do the other county waste sites.

But County Manager Bill Williams has acknowledged that, with the bin sites temporarily closed, large piles of trash are piling up on some days outside the compactors until county workers can get there to remove it.

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“I would say that one of the things we need to move expeditiously on is the possibility and the probability of a county landfill, but it is not going to happen overnight,” said Board of Commissioners Chair Will Cavin.

Commissioner Dara Dana added, “I’m receiving calls just like all the other commissioners.”

Jeneva Martinez, a county resident who had been posting on social media about concerns over waste piling up, said that she appreciated that commissioners had discussed concerns with her and that she supported the county building its own landfill as an alternative to the city landfill.

“I am glad to see that it is being added to the (Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan) list,” Martinez said, adding that she wanted more information about the development process so that the community could be more involved.

The state requires the county to turn in an ICIP list each year of projects they intend to request state funding to develop. The list also was discussed during Thursday’s meeting.

Community volunteer Rita Kane-Doerhoefer, who works with Keep Chaves County Beautiful and Keep Roswell Beautiful and lives in the county, also told commissioners she and her groups would work to support a county landfill.

“I am asking that you put a county landfill on the ICIP,” she said. “I have called the state. I have called OSHA. I have called the environmental people with the state. They have all been down here.”

County commissioners spent part of the meeting discussing with Roswell City Councilor Barry Foster the waste disposal problems that have arisen regarding the city landfill since the May floods.

The county had been disposing of bin waste at the city landfill, but the city has had to close its landfill for days at a time during and after recent rain storms because, according to city employees, trucks cannot drive safely at the site when the soil is saturated.

Williams also explained that he and Roswell Deputy City Manager Mike Mathews agreed together that the county would not dump the open-top bins — now containing storm waste — into the city’s open landfill cell for the time being. Instead, the county is trucking the bins to the Eddy County landfill for disposal.

The county pays the city of Roswell $180,000 a year to use its landfill, but Williams said it also has created accounts with Eddy County and the city of Artesia in case it needs alternative locations.

Foster explained to commissioners that the city’s new landfill cell is expected to open in about six months, depending on weather conditions. That cell is expected to be have enough capacity for at least 10 years once completed.

Foster also said the existing cell should have adequate capacity until the new cell opens.

“They redesigned the existing cell. They went from one-to-six grade to a one-to-two grade,” Foster said. “They believe that will give us another seven months.”

Sheriff Mike Herrington also noted that it is unlawful for people to dump trash outside bins or compactors.

“I am going to have deputies go out — if they have reports or have something they need to do — they can just sit at those sites,” he said. “I am also going to ask the community, take pictures of the license plates if you can — if not, of the vehicles and the people — out there dumping trash.”

Herrington said he intends to move from citing to arresting those who dump illegally.

“Right now because people have been made aware that you are not allowed to dump trash at those sites, we are just going to start arresting people,” he said. “I think that is going to be the best remedy. I think the word will get out pretty quick that, if you are out there dumping trash, you are going to be arrested for it.”

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.