BARSTOW These days, San Bernardino County landfills are quieter than they used to be and that could mean fee increases or possible closure for low-volume facilities like the Barstow Landfill.

"We've got to either cut costs or raise revenues somehow," said Gerry Newcombe, deputy executive officer at the Solid Waste Management Division of the county Department of Public Works.

The county could also raise the cost to dump items at the facilities or reduce their hours, Newcombe said.

The poor economy and declining construction in the region has taken a toll on county landfills, and as a result the solid waste system is running an annual deficit of $13.3 million, Barstow Councilman Tim Saenz said at the Feb. 6 City Council meeting.

At the Barstow Landfill, a plateau of refuse topped with soil that boasts a 360 degree view of the desert, six workers operate a facility that processes about 200 tons per day of waste, about 20 percent less than it received in 2004. Systemwide, the decline is about 35 percent since 2007, Newcombe said.

A county employee manages fee collection at the landfill's entrance, but the remaining employees work for a contractor, Burrtec Waste Industries Inc., said Mark Dvoriak, operations superintendent for the Solid Waste Division.

Because no county funds are spent on the system, the agency must support itself with revenue from refuse dumped at its facilities.

Newcombe said that his department would have to meet with cities that use the county's landfill system to decide on a way to balance its budget. Newcombe emphasized that it was too soon to know what options were on the table but that the county should make a decision by the end of June, after soliciting input from affected cities and the public.

Consolidating the county's landfill facilities would save money because the landfills face certain fixed costs regardless of the level of refuse they process, said Rex Richardson, public information officer for the Solid Waste Division. The county must also pay to maintain old facilities that are closed, Richardson said.

Closing the Barstow Landfill would shift refuse to the Victorville Landfill, which "has the potential for decades of capacity," Newcombe said.

Newcombe said something needed to be done, because the volume of trash was still declining, although slower than in years past.

"We haven't hit bottom yet," he said, "and that still really concerns me."

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