The Pima County Board of Supervisors has offered an olive branch to Ajo residents concerned that new fees would lead to illegal dumping.
It is too early to tell, however, how the 3,304 residents of the small community 138 miles west of Tucson will respond to the $2-a-trip reduction in the new fee for dumping garbage at the county-run landfill.
Residents in Ajo have been concerned for months that some of the neighborhoods would choose to dump their trash in the desert rather than paying the proposed $5 fee each time they got rid of their trash.
The amended schedule adopted by the board distinguishes between a truck full of garbage and car with a few bags, offering a $2 per trip discount for the latter.
Robert Sorrels, who made the two-hour trip to address the board last week, said the initial proposal was unfair to cash-strapped households just trying to properly dispose of their garbage.
He said it wasn’t fair for him to show up at the landfill with a half-ton pickup full of trash and then pay the same as an elderly couple with four bags of household waste in their trunk.
Sorrels said he was satisfied with the amended proposal, saying the board listened to the concerns of Ajo residents and tried to meet them in the middle.
He said he still has concerns about the closure of sites in Why and Lukeville, doubting will anyone will drive 10 miles, much less 40, to dump their trash.
The average annual household income in Ajo, according to the 2010 U.S. census, is roughly $25,000.That is just half the statewide average of $50,752.
Sorrels said some families simply don’t have the $20 a month to dump their trash.
Supervisor Sharon Bronson, whose district covers Ajo, said she was proud the board could find a compromise with area residents who were concerned the new fee would lead to more wildcat dumping.
She said county staff will continue to keep tabs on the Ajo area once the fee goes into effect in the coming weeks.
County officials concede they have few resources to keep tabs on illegal dumps, with only one staffer in Pima County dedicated to the issue.
The new solid-waste fee offsets some of the costs of 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 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.