As a low-income community, Mora County has faced great challenges in addressing basic services with regard to solid waste management.
The Mora County Collection Center (Mora County Transfer Station) is a project that is a small portion to the larger issue of solid waste management in Mora County. Historically, solid waste disposal has been challenging, difficult, and was in great need of improvement.
The Mora County Commission has faced many complaints about its solid waste problem. Previously, the only method of disposal was an open pit dump. Neighbors from the community of El Alto voiced legitimate concerns about water pollution and blowing trash. In response the county capped the dump and began a program of hauling trash to a commercial landfill in Wagon Mound. Mora County then established the Transfer Station to collect solid waste and transport it to the landfill.
To cover the costs associated with the transfer station, Mora County began to bill residents in 1998. However, blowing trash remained a serious problem.
In response, county officials agreed to a waiver of fees for the immediate affected residents to encourage people to use the facility. This decision was made in 2003.
The Transfer Station was a temporary solution to the solid waste problem until Mora County could develop a proper facility for solid waste collection.
The Mora County Commission made the new Mora County Collection Center an infrastructure priority when requesting either state or federal funds. Mora County was finally successful in securing federal funding to design and construct the Mora County Collection Center. Under the leadership of the previous Mora County Commission, the county received a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency which was allocating federal dollars through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the Stimulus Funds.
Management of this grant required diligence and careful monitoring, and is a testament to the ability of Mora County to carry out a complex infrastructure project.
Despite setbacks, including issues with the architect and contractor, the Mora County Collection Center was completed in October 2011. It was started by one Mora County Commission and finished by another, demonstrating a high level of teamwork and coordination. After project construction was finalized, county officials had to develop methods for operations and maintenance in addition to more standardized financial procedures. A collection net was installed to prevent trash from blowing to neighboring properties, staffing was modified to address the different schedule for hauling trash and the landowners who were previously granted a waiver were added back to the list of residents who would be billed. The original waiver for payment ended when the blowing trash problem was solved.
The Mora County Collection Center is a success story. Through years of hard work and several successive administrations, Mora County built a proper facility to handle solid waste. Any improprieties should be brought to the attention of the County Manager. All current issues are subject of an internal review by county officials and will be addressed appropriately.
The ongoing issue of the development of management procedures is being currently reviewed by county staff that will then make recommendations to the commission. Included in these policies will be billing and collection procedures. Members of the public are invited to express their views regarding solid waste management in Mora County.
Thomas M. Sanchez is the Mora County manager. He may be reached at 575-387-5279.