Comanche County, Lawton Discuss landfill fee

  • This mattress, trash bags, wooden box and broken shelves were laying in the bar ditches on either side of Railroad Street within a mile of Peacan Road on Monday.
  • Trash and Boxes

LAWTON – An agreement over a fee charged for disposal of debris that Comanche County crews are picking up on county roads in the vicinity of the municipal landfill is being discussed by the county commissioners and city officials.

The Lawton City Council voted last December to triple, from $1 to $3, the gate fee at the sanitary landfill south of town off 11th Street. Two-thirds of the proceeds from the increased fee are to be used by the 11-member Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority (LETA) to finance litter abatement operations at the landfill “and along travel routes that are used to haul solid waste to the landfill,” an ordinance specifies.

“It appears that we do not charge the county a gate fee for solid waste disposal at the City of Lawton landfill,” Tiffany Vrska, the city’s community relations director, said Tuesday. “They are a governmental agency and collaborate with the city in shared responsibilities in our community for roadside services/litter pickup. Further, details of the agreement currently in place, and/or renewal of that agreement, will be explored and discussed at the Aug. 25 Lawton City Council meeting.”

A city attorney indicated during a recent conversation that the city was considering imposing the new rate on the county, District 3 Comanche County Commissioner Alvin Cargill said.

That prompted some negotiations between the County Courthouse and City Hall.

The $1 fee is not intolerable, Cargill said, and a $3 fee wouldn’t bankrupt the county. Between them, Cargill and Commissioner Gail Turner said, their crews dump three to four loads of trash each week at the landfill – at $9 to $12 per week. That would be $468 to $624 a year.

Cost isn’t the issue. It’s the principle involved.

Turner’s District 1 and Cargill’s District 3 crews are gathering and disposing of trash that’s dumped on county roads; Turner’s district includes the Lawton landfill. Commissioner Johnny Owens has no county roads in his Central District.

A typical haul includes sofas, mattresses, tree limbs and shrubs, construction materials, refrigerators, stoves and other appliances.

“We average two to three bobtail loads a week,” Turner said, and Cargill said his crews collect “at least one load a week.

“People drive out there and find out the landfill is closed, or they learn what the gate fee and the dump fee will cost, so they turn around and just toss the stuff into the bar ditches,” Cargill said. “I’m sure it’s not all Lawton’s trash, but the lion’s share is.” 

Lawton Mayor Stan Booker concurred. “Since we account for 75% of the county population, I suspect most of that trash comes from the city.”

Some officials indicated the city charges the county the $1 gate fee, but the perton fee for whatever debris the county deposits in the landfill is waived. The City of Lawton and Comanche County have “a governmental partnership,” Booker said.

As for the gate fee the county is charged for using the municipal landfill, “We’re working on that,” Booker said Monday. “I suspect we’ll not change it,” he said. “We expect that to be addressed at the next City Council meeting,” which is scheduled at 2 p.m. Aug. 25.

Booker said he thinks the city switching from twice- a-year by-appointment bulk trash collection to once-a- month bulk neighborhood pickup will alleviate at least some of the county’s problem.

Jan. 1, 2021, is the target date for reducing residential trash collection from twice-a-week to once-a week pickup, coupled with once-a-month neighborhood bulk trash collection, Deputy City Manager Richard Rogalski said Monday.

“We still have to buy some equipment before we can implement those changes,” he said. For example, “We expect that when we go to once-a- week residential collection, a lot of residents will want a second 90-gallon polycart.”