Earthmovers work in the Sahuarita Landfill Sept. 21, 2006.

David Sanders/Arizona Daily Star

The landfill on Tangerine Road will close by the end of the year and another in Sahuarita will close next year as part of a deal to privatize the day-to-day operations of Pima County's dumps and other waste-collection stations.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors has signed off on a $10 million contract with Tucson Recycling and Waste Services to manage the county's four landfills, two transfer stations, four rural collection sites and its waste-tire program. The only exception in the deal will be the Ina Road Landfill, which will remain closed.

The landfills on Tangerine Road and in Sahuarita are nearly full, county officials note, but both sites will remain open to residents as transfer stations. Tucson Recycling and Waste Services will build - at its cost - transfer stations to allow locals to drop off trash and recyclable material, said Ursula Kramer, director of the county Department of Environmental Quality.

Two other rural transfer stations, in Lukeville and Why, will close as part of the privatization of services. County officials say neither location serves the general public.

The deal is expected to save the county at least $250,000 annually - although the agency will continue to transfer $1.75 million annually from the general fund to subsidize operations.

Competition from dumps run by Waste Management Inc. is the main reason county landfills are operating at a deficit, according to county memo dated January 14.

The county will be provided cover material for the closure of the Tangerine Road landfill at no cost other than to haul soil and other organic waste from the Marana Regional Landfill.

The free cover material is expected to save the county $1.75 million over the course of the decade-long contract.

Currently, the county pays Granite Construction $5 for every cubic yard of cover material it brings to the Tangerine Road landfill.

A memo written by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said employees working at the landfills have been offered other jobs inside the organization.

Several residents in Ajo objected to the proposal, saying the possibility of implementing fees to use the landfill would lead to poorer residents' choosing to dump their garbage in the desert.

It is possible the contractor could choose to implement fees, Huckelberry concedes, but it would still require separate approval by the supervisors at a future meeting.

Currently, it costs $400,000 a year to operate the landfill in Ajo.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at or 573-4346.