- The Rio Rico Landfill in Santa Cruz County, AZ is starting to become a financial burden. While the landfill generated $2 million in revenue during the most recent fiscal cycle for the first time in years, this still won't be enough to replenish a shrinking reserve fund.
- Because the county has had to pull from reserves to cover operating costs in recent years, the fund has dropped from $2.5 million in June 2010 to $1.5 million at the end of 2015. A county study found the landfill will need as much as $24 million over its remaining 22 year lifespan to cover expenses.
- The county has considered issuing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to find potential haulers that could take its waste and allow for the landfill to be closed.
The main reason behind the landfill's recently increased revenue is that the city of Nogales started using the site again for the first time since 2009. This helped the county add approximately $500,000 to the reserve, but officials have estimated that tipping fees would need to increase by more than $50 per ton—double the current fee—to make the operation viable long-term. Taking this approach would likely result in a loss of business and lead to further financial challenges.
The county has also considered selling the site or building its own transfer station. In the short term, one official has proposed partnering with Nogales to negotiate a higher volume hauling contract. The county supervisors are expected to vote on moving forward with an RFQ at their next meeting on Aug. 3.
Exporting waste farther away isn't often seen as the ideal scenario, but the fiscal implications of inaction offer a compelling reason. Rather than waiting until the site nears capacity or continuing to burn through the reserve fund, Santa Cruz County officials are showing foresight by making sure they'll still have enough money left to close the landfill in a responsible way.