Recyclable Route Collection to start Sept. 1, Increase in Excise Tax and Progress on Orcas Transfer Station
At a hastily-called public meeting on Monday, July 30, San Juan County Public Works Director Frank Mulcahy reviewed the process of Vendor Selection for the Orcas Transfer Station, announced a rate hike from 10 to 16 percent for solid waste and allowed ample time for San Juan Sanitation to clarify the process by which it will begin recyclable route collection on Sept. 1.
County Council Chair/Solid Waste Subcommittee Chair Patty Miller and County Solid Waste Planner Elizabeth Anderson assisted Mulcahy in his presentation at the Eastsound Fire Hall.
Aside from four members of the public, the bulk of the audience of 15 was made up of County representatives (current and would-be), County Staff, staff, members of the Orcas Transfer Station Vendor Selection Committee and representatives of the two entities who submitted proposals for operation of the Orcas Transfer Station.
Mulcahy described the different expense and revenue models at the transfer stations on Lopez, San Juan and Orcas Islands. Lopez is proceeding with plans for a waste disposal taxing district, which Lopezians will vote upon this November. San Juan’s Request for Proposal deadline is October 1. The San Juan site proposal will need approval from the town of Friday Harbor before negotiating with a vendor.
The Orcas Transfer Station then, is the only one which private entities, one a non-profit (Orcas Recycling Services /The Exchange,) and one a business (Cimarron Enterprises), have proposed to run.
Mulcahy announced that the excise tax for garbage, both self-hauled and picked up by SJ Sanitation, will be increased to 16% this fall. (The current rate is 10%). The revenue from this tax will go toward the $800,000 existing debt for solid waste and for monitoring the Orcas landfill.
Orcas Transfer Station Vendor Selection Process
Miller reviewed the Vendor Selection Process for the Orcas Transfer Station, noting the receipt of proposals from ORS and Cimarron, their presentations before the selection committee, and the request by the County Council for additional responses from both to key components in the Request for Proposals (RFP) to manage the site.
Those additional responses are due to the selection committee by Aug. 16, in order to go before the County Council at its August 21 meeting. Miller said, “The Council will make a determination:
- To proceed with one vendor;
- To proceed with multiple vendors;
- To split the services and negotiate separately.”
Following the Council’s decision, Mulcahy will enter into contract negotiations with the vendor(s) selected. Prior to a contract being awarded there will be a public hearing, where there will be availability for public comment. The hearing date depends on how rapidly contract negotiations proceed, Miller said.
“We are fortunate to have a facility on Orcas that’s basically turn-key,” Miller said. She added that the town of Friday Harbor doesn’t want self-haul at its facility with its current configuration, and Lopez will need a property tax because of the small volume of materials, both garage and recyclables, at its site.
“Orcas has two proposals offering a robust array of services. The Council decided early in the process that they wanted continuation of the re-use facility. There are ways for The Exchange to be open when the transfer station isn’t. It is likely self-haul will continue,” Miller said.
She noted that both Cimarron and ORS proposals considered use of the county-owned parcels adjacent to the tipping floor, or Parcel D where the scales are located at the east side of the parcel.
(Parcels A and C are available for limited services in the RFP. Parcel A is where the fee booth and “Z-wall” for recyclables is currently located; Parcel B is where The Exchange operates; Parcel C was described as a vacant lot behind The Exchange).
Reconfiguration of the four parcels was discussed, in terms of using Parcel A for better access, parking and/or self-haul operations, Parcel B for recycling and re-use operations and Parcel for C for future waste handling plans such as converting waste gases into energy. The selected vendor would pay for these changes; including road re-siting.
Further questions were asked about the viability of disposal operations if the waste stream is reduced, and the County’s legal ability to prohibit any on-island solid waste from going off-island (flow control).
Miller explained, “Flow control is designed for small counties to be able to build infrastructure and protects publicly-owned and operated sites. But the County has to public own AND operate a site for flow control to be in effect,” she said.
Mulcahy said that the County is “looking primarily at solid waste handling on [parcel] D.”
Miller said that both proposals assume similar volumes. “The ORS [proposal] assumes a decrease over time, but both models are susceptible to the reduction in volume. Both proposals assume the same array of services and volumes, and operate with full suite of solid waste services.”
Mulcahy said, “When we started the [RFP] process, we had no clear indication of how we were going to go. We wanted to leave it open for innovation and creativity is what we have today. We had enough concern over making the right selection that we wanted to have this process.”
A member of the audience questioned, “What happens if a contract goes into effect and two years down the line, it’s a mess?”
Miller responded, “State law requires a five-year contract; I would expect there’s provisions for performance standards and out-clauses…The facility is not expected to change that dramatically and many pitfalls can be addressed in contracts and state law.”
Mulcahy added that the basic contract is already drafted.
Recylclables Route Collection
Mulcahy and Anderson then turned their focus to the recyclable route collection by San Juan Sanitation that is scheduled to begin on Sept. 1. Logan Luft of San Juan Sanitation answered questions and announced that a mailing had been sent to all current residential customers of SJ Sanitation with Eastsound zip codes.
Anyone who currently has residential garbage service on Orcas and San Juan Islands will, by ordinance, automatically be scheduled and billed for route recycling services at the basic fee of $9. That fee covers pick-up of two 32-gallon cans of commingled recyclables once a month. Customers must purchase their own recyclable cans.
Mulcahy clarified that it is not mandatory for those who are not current SJ Sanitation customers to sign up for the recycling collection, but “If you want recyclables picked up, you have to sign up. If you sign up for garbage at any level you’ll automatically be signed up for recycling.” He added that patrons could sign up for only the recycling service.
Mulcahy also recommended going to the SJ Sanitation website or to call the company at 376-JUNK for varying schedules and rates.
Dale Ely asked how people will know when to put recyclables at the end of their driveway or roadside. Luft said, “Our worst enemy is grade, and there is often a road we can’t service because of overgrowth and turn-around. So it’s tough to state the permanence of collection points.
“The best bet if you are interested in services is to call us and do a site check on an individual basis.”
Mulcahy apologized for the short notice for the Monday afternoon meeting in Eastsound, and said his goal was to “increase communication through monthly meetings. He also plans to improve activity on the Public Works site on the county website at www.sanjuanco.com and to update the email service. He suggested people keep up-to-date with the Solid Waste Transition plans by going directly to www.sanjuanco.com/sw/SW_Transition.aspx