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Cheyenne's Municipal Building. Wyoming Tribune Eagle/file

CHEYENNE – The Cheyenne City Council voted 8-2 on Monday to approve a contract modification between the city and WYCO Recycling that doubles the existing tipping fee, minimum payment and not-to-exceed cost Cheyenne pays to operate its recycling program.

A tipping fee is what the city pays per ton of waste it takes to WYCO for sorting and distribution. Previously, the fee was set at $40 per ton, with a minimum of $10,000 per month and a $200,000 annual cap.

The modification increases the tipping fee to $80 per ton, with a $20,000 minimum per month and $400,000-per-year cap.

“This is something we need to take a hard look at,” Councilman Rocky Case said. “This recycling problem is not something that’s going to go away.”

If the full council had not approved the increase, Cheyenne likely would have lost its primary recycling option as early as next week, WYCO owner Brian Heuer told the council.

After years of buying recycled materials from the U.S., China reduced its imports last year due to large amounts of foreign trash mixing with recyclables.

Cheyenne Public Works Director Vicki Nemecek told council members that the increase in recycling costs would not result in a fee increase beyond what was already being requested for solid waste.

“Our plan already included for this year a request of a 5 percent increase to our solid waste fee schedule,” Nemecek told the council. “So we do not intend to ask for any more because of this change.”

The council would still need to approve a requested increase.

Council members Bryan Cook and Mike Luna voted against the measure.

In other action

Council also voted 9-1 to adopt a proposal to name the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens Grand Conservatory for the Gardens’ founder and former director, Shane Smith.

Smith spearheaded a sixth-penny sales tax initiative that funded the facility, which features a tropical plant collection, a Baroque-style orangerie and a bonsai house, among many other features.

He retired as director last year, but continues his involvement with the gardens, volunteering as the director of the nonprofit Friends of the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens Foundation.

“It’s a wonderful honor,” Smith said. “I accept it on behalf of so many other people who have helped me over the years.”

Smith founded the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens in 1977, planting the first seeds for the new greenhouse himself.

During his tenure as director, Smith oversaw the opening of the Paul Smith Children’s Village in 2009 and the Grand Conservatory in 2017, as well as the Women’s Civic League Peace Garden, the Rotary Century Plaza, the Bedont Rose Garden, the Bobbi Hathaway Garden Labyrinth and the Reckling Herb Garden.

Casting the sole vote in opposition, Councilman Mark Rinne said he usually votes no in these matters as the city maintains no guidelines for naming its buildings and properties.

Steve Knight is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3182 or sknight@wyomingnews.com.

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