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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Waste district seeks independence

Apr 19, 2021 09:49AM ● By Cassie Goff

“WFWRD does all of our waste collection including recycling, glass and trash pickup,” said Cottonwood Heights Councilmember Scott Bracken. (Wasatch Front Waste & Recycling District)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

The Wasatch Front Waste & Recycling District (WFWRD) board is hoping to gain more control over their own organization. Board members are currently seeking support to shift from a special service district of Salt Lake County to an independent local service district area. Under their current special service district designation, the WFWRD Board is required to defer to their creation entity for a handful for resolution items. 

For example, the WFWRD Board is required to receive approval from Salt Lake County to change or adjust their boundaries. The WFWRD Board struggled with this recently as a handful of properties annexed into Sandy City from Salt Lake County and wanted to use WFWRD services. 

“We were not able to handle that with the WFWRD Board. We had to go back to the Salt Lake County Council,” said WFWRD General Manager/CEO Pam Roberts. “As a special service district, we are not independent.”

In addition, “Salt Lake County could dissolve the WFWRD Board at any time if they wanted to. They still own the organization,” said WFWRD Legal Counsel Rachel Anderson. 

Becoming a special service area would allow WFWRD to have more independence as Salt Lake County would surrender their control. Decisions could be made by the WRWRD Board exclusively as they would no longer be required to go to Salt Lake County Council for any changes. 

“The more authority the Board has the better. We want to be as independent as we possibly can,” said Cottonwood Heights City Councilmember (WFWRD Liaison) Scott Bracken.  

WFWRD has been requesting to become an independent service area for over eight years. WFWRD originated as a Salt Lake County division in 1977.  

Over the years, Salt Lake County’s role in WFWRD minimized as WFWRD continued to expand. “We became a special service district with an administrative control board,” said Roberts. 

The WFWRD Board gained a majority of their control and authority from Salt Lake County as they can currently perform most of its procedural and organizational tasks, like setting the yearly budget. 

In 2013, the Utah State Legislature passed a bill making it easier for special service districts to become local areas. “Some governing laws were created with us in mind,” Anderson said. 

“Now, we are ready to finalize our independence, completing the process,” said Anderson. “This is a change that has been coming for a long time.” 

“This makes us more nimble as we will be able to pivot sooner rather than later,” said Roberts. 

In order to do so, WFWRD must receive consent from each of the entities (six cities and 15 metro townships) they service. Once they have all consented, the Salt Lake County Council must pass a resolution of approval. 

“There is not a firm timeline, but we are meeting with all the entities to get approval,” said Anderson. 

Currently, the WFWRD Board is made up of one elected member from each of the municipalities it services. Even though that could change after gaining independence, it is not likely. “The Board could vote to change the makeup of the board but I don’t see that happening, no weighted voting,” said Roberts. 

In addition, the WFWRD Board could change how the district is funded without Salt Lake County’s needed approval. “We are currently entirely fee based. We could be outvoted and have a tax assigned,” said Roberts, but she indicated WFWRD enjoys operating on a cash basis and does not hope to have a tax. 

On March 16, Cottonwood Heights approved Resolution 2021-13: Consenting to Reorganization of the Wasatch Front Waste & Recycling District as a Local District unanimously. 

“This gives WFWRD more autonomy which I think that’s valuable,” said Cottonwood Heights Mayor Michael Peterson. “I’m a fan of local districts. It’s a much better system.” 

“The community partnership should not change at all,” said Roberts. “Servicing the members of Cottonwood Heights will not change in any way.”