Guest Column: Still Too Many Un-Answered Questions for Council to Make an Informed Vote on the Orcas Transfer Station Contract
By Sadie Bailey
The more I search for answers, the more, and deeper, questions are raised concerning the imminent Orcas Transfer Facility Contract decision that Council has on its shoulders. Considering that both Orcas and San Juan are taking longer to make their decisions, I can’t help but wonder; what’s the rush?
The Public has not been properly informed on the Whole Big Picture of our solid waste issue. The County is in the middle of drafting a new solid waste plan, and is far behind in its state-mandated updates every 5 years. (see section 1.1 of draft.)
If San Juan County loses the opportunity to gain and keep local control of waste management, the long-term implications are sobering – and frightening. We can’t sit back and allow this loss. This will be our only chance to gain and retain local control and effect waste reduction and increased recycling opportunities for our islands, and for future generations.
Sharon Kivisto’s guest editorial in Orcas Issues outlines some of the benefits of flow control, and why San Juan County needs to keep it.
From my own research on flow control, including some court cases, RCWs, and the EPA’s and Dept. of Ecology’s regulations and guidelines, I believe that as a county consisting of islands, we have special needs and challenges in order to keep our transfer stations open and our solid waste and recycling efforts local. I believe that we would find the State, the Dept. of Ecology, and the Courts sympathetic to our need for keeping flow control.
- is a non-discriminatory checks-and-balances system to keep stability in tipping fees and waste volumes, to keep waste management local, and to
- keeps things local – preventing our garbage and recycling from being taken to the mainland rather than our solid waste facilities.
- keeps jobs and infrastructure in this county, where we want them.
- keeps everyone honest and working together, since the issue of money alone becomes less of a temptation for any of the players.
- gives us the opportunity to work together for better solutions for waste reduction and for broadening our recycling services possibilities while reducing waste.
- is used to help counties pay off their bond debts for solid waste.
- is more expensive for those who want more profits, and thus, they don’t like it.
- but ultimately, it saves residents money, and gives us more choice in the directions we can go.
Reducing the waste stream and putting our efforts into recycling and reuse is the direction that the citizens have repeatedly said we’ve wanted to go for years and years, and this is our chance to make it happen.
I believe that Orcas Recycle Services comes to the table with the right intentions. They are putting the community’s needs over profit alone. They understand what’s at stake if we lose local control, and are working to accommodate the needs of this community. They want to generate a local economy, not send all our jobs and potential products away while we then pay to “buy” back what we could have made right here. The directions we can take are exciting and varied.
Who, really, is Cimarron Enterprises? What do we really know about them? What are their real intentions for San Juan County? They don’t know our community or what we want. They don’t know our long-term transfer station operators, who we value for their expertise. If Cimarron gets the contract, I fear that we won’t have a voice in effecting creative solutions – which we have the intelligence, heart, and resources among our community to do.
Since the score was so close between Cimarron and ORS, the Vendor Selection Committee (VSC) asked more questions of each applicant. The written answers to those questions are being turned in today. Here are the questions asked of ORS and Cimarron:
Question #10 asks the applicants to provide any information on pending or settled litigation within the last 5 years. That aroused my curiosity. I knew that ORS didn’t have any litigation history, but does Cimarron? I’m hoping that will be revealed at tomorrow’s (Friday, August 17) VSC meeting at the fire hall from noon to 4 p.m. I’ll be looking for those kinds of answers.
I strongly urge the public to attend at least part of the VSC meeting and hear out the applicants’ answers, and the findings of the VSC based on those answers. I hope people bring their questions and concerns. It’s important to get these heard and addressed. Council has the set the agenda on the contract decision for Tuesday, August 21st; only a few short days away.
The public needs more information – a whole lot more – before Council makes a decision affecting us profoundly, for the long term.