Council Adopts Plan that Prioritizes Curbside Pickup after Public Hearing
By Sadie Bailey
On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 11, the San Juan County Council held the final public hearing on the Solid Waste Management Final Draft Plan (SWMP), before voting to adopt it. Members of the public from Orcas and San Juan Island gave testimony at the SWMP hearing; all were in favor of self-haul. They expressed concern and dismay that the New Plan takes a 180-degree turn away from self-haul.
The 1996 Plan put self-haul as the top priority for San Juan County. The New Plan puts Curbside Pickup as the top priority, which is likely an impediment to meeting Washington State’s “Beyond Waste” goals.
Each person offering public testimony covered a different aspect of the New Plan’s shortcomings and the direction that the County is taking. Presently, all the islands use Orcas Transfer Station. That will change as Lopez gets their own solid waste facility up and running, and if SJ Island’s facility will include self-haul garbage and recyclables. How this affects Orcas Transfer station in the future was not addressed.
Frank Mulcahy (director) and Ed Hale, of Public Works, said that with so little time, and with all islands using Orcas Transfer Station (OTS), Public Works needed to make the best transition arrangement by mid-December, to avoid any interruptions in service when the County’s contract with Waste Management and Cimarron ends on December 31.
No one addressed how the end of these contracts and any subsequent rate increases would affect self-haulers, but both SJ Sanitation and Cimarron [who are contracted as route haulers] have promised no rate increases on route collection for five years.
According to Frank Mulcahy, New Plan adoption and contract negotiations need to begin immediately. San Juan County’s RFP process begins October 1, so Public Works needs to get their work done on the Orcas contract negotiations by Sept. 30, he said.
The excise tax increase was also explained: 10% of the new increased 16% excise tax will still be used to pay down the County debt; the other 6% will be divided up and used toward capital investment for the transfer stations.
Council Member Howie Rosenfeld said that self-haul has been degraded in the New Plan. He asked for language giving it more value. Before the motion and final vote, Rosenfeld asked why, if there was a hearing with public comment, is Council not willing to make changes in the Plan? Ed Hale’s answer was that Ecology’s comments on the final draft, in bold type, can’t be changed without an entire new review. That seemed to convince Council. The motion to adopt the plan passed 6-0, with both Howie Rosenfeld and Lovell Pratt expressing reservations.
To listen to Citizens Access comments, Public testimony, and watch the discussion and decision for the September 11 meeting, access the video through the SJC website, sanjuanco.com click on the” County Council” tab and then on the “Video of Council Meetings.” Council meetings are recorded and archived for 90 days. Here is the link to that meeting. Public Access and the SWMP hearing began at 2:45 p.m. The Orcas RFP vendor discussion and decision followed the hearing and regular meeting. You can watch here: