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Letters about Solid Waste

Letters to Editor - Solid Waste

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During the running of the most recent play at the Orcas Grange – “Hotbed Hotel” – Doug Bechtel of The Actor’s Theater and director of the play, shared with audiences his love of The Exchange and stories of how the theater has often drawn on the unpredictable treasure trove that was always to be found there for costumes, lighting and sets.

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Letters to Editor - Solid Waste

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This week marks the end of an era in San Juan County. After 24 years of service, both as a contractor and as an employee, Helen Venada will be leaving employment with San Juan County.

As I travel around the islands visiting with local businesses concerning waste and pollution issues, it has always impressed me how many folks appreciate and praise Helen’s commitment to environmental issues, especially her efforts in waste prevention: helping people find creative ways to use and re-use unwanted items, aggressively promoting recycling, and reducing the amount of materials that we send to landfills. This, along with her work with kids in our schools, is her passion.

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Letters to Editor - Solid Waste

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CONTINUED

Other Thoughts and Concerns

I still don't see what makes Norm Wietting/Cimarron any more qualified for running Orcas Transfer Station (besides financials) than ORS, considering that he lives in Bellevue and would not be involved in local day-to-day local management of our operations. Norm Wietting's interest in waste management, from what his resume shows, seems to be in the collection and landfill aspects. I would like to remind Council that that's a 180 degree turn in direction away from the zero waste model this county aims to meet eventually, and that is required by State Law.

If one factors-in the Skagit County and Sedro Wooley litigation documents, one could find Norm Wietting's career history troubling. The Ray Sizemore Trust assets make Cimarron unbeatable in financials and equipment alone. The Larry Mc Carter connection [Deluxe Recycling Litigation - and now, Recycling and Disposal (RDS)] makes his "letter of recommendation" seem questionable, in my opinion.

Many citizens have questioned whether it's wise for County Officials to allow Cimarron to infiltrate into San Juan County's SW and recycling Local operations and management. How will San Juan County Interest be served by choosing Cimarron, even for the short term? Could Cimarron's contract, or any litigation they might file against San Juan County, put Orcas Transfer Station and surrounding County Properties at risk?

Could Mr. Wietting/Cimarron, by not getting what they want, sue San Juan County and cause closure of OTS; and then buy it from the County for next to nothing - say, the price of the County debt? Has the County accepted the 3%-over-the-excise-tax that Cimarron offered? (no one has mentioned this in awhile.)

To what use would this excess money be put that would benefit self- haul, reuse and locally-based recycling services for the Citizens?

I don't know what Norm Wietting/Cimarron would or will do, I only think about what they could or might do, based on observing what's before me. They seem to want the Orcas facility really badly. Why? To what ends? What are we not being told that we need to be told about Council's and Staff's determination to choose Cimarron and to entertain extended, renewable contracts? Does this decision pertain to the mess made of San Juan island's situation? These are the real questions the County should be asking, and answering, on behalf of its citizens and its coffers.

If the County offers Cimarron a shortened contract with no options for capital investments, would Cimarron and Norm Wietting still be interested in our Little County? Does the upcoming San Juan Island RFP decision factor heavily into choosing Cimarron? I think it does. Could there be a lot more at stake that we don't know about? Has Council sufficiently explored all possible motives, and what could be gained, and lost, in any and all scenarios?

The outsourcing of our resources began 20+ years ago, as you may know - when the Commissioners and former Public Works director dictated our Waste Management/ Cimarron/ San Juan Sanitation arrangement. The people vehemently opposed it and protested then, to no avail.

The dominoes have all been in place for awhile. San Juan Island was the first to fall. The County has made it next to impossible for them to recover or have local control. What happens when all the dominoes start falling?

Awarding SJS curbside route collection may be putting in the final screws in the coffin lid, regarding self-haul, self-determination, and local control. The New SWMP justifies this sharp turn away from Self Haul and Local Control. The Nina Rook survey used to back the County's decision was used out of context. Frank Mulcahy said in the July 4 Islands' Sounder Edition: "It's a brave new world" (Has he ever read Aldous Huxley's book Brave New World?), and, "I think there is life after self haul."

I hope that Mr. Mulcahy's mind wasn't already made up when the New SWMP was drafted. The ballot measure offered in 2011 seemed to set it up by not offering option C (see my former letter to Council/the Editor about Option C). The Public feels betrayed, and rightly so. It will be fascinating to see how the San Juan RFP plays out, which leads to the next topic.

Dan Leidecker Questions and Concerns

First: I certainly don't want SJS drivers to lose their jobs! They are locals who work hard and have families here. Yet - I wish to know where Mr. Leidecker fits into this puzzle, and what sway he might have over this County. How is he connected to the Cimarron/WM partnership, both short and long-term? How have his connections affected the County's determination to go the direction of route-collected vs self-haul? Perhaps because of his long-term contractual working arrangements with Cimarron & Waste Management, both in the San Juan Islands and in his pick-up business and transfer facility in Lynden (Nooksack Valley Disposal, Inc.).

I worry about giving Mr. Leidecker more control in San Juan County. Other concerns and questions about Mr. Leidecker's influence on this County are stated below.

What will happen if Mr. Leidecker decides to permit, and open, his Transfer Station behind the County site, once Flow Control disappears? Would Service Area Ordinances protect against things like this, including his threatening to take all collected materials directly to the mainland if ORS gets the OTS contract?

Can we look into how Pierce County kept Local Control with Service Area Ordinances, for when ORS does take over the OTS? http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/xml/services/home/environ/pdf/solidwaste/appendixF.pdf

Under the WUTC guidelines, the WUTC can intercede if there are "refusal of service" issues and anti-trust issues with their certificated haulers. Does Dan Leidecker's refusal to work with ORS and letter of intent to work only with Cimarron (even after ORS counter-offered for a lower rate than Cimarron) constitute refusal of service or anti-trust? I would like Council and/or Randy Gaylord to look into WUTC policies on these issues. www.wutc.wa.gov/rms2.nsf/vwFilingFormChangeTest/563F4A4FC8360B3488257A5C0073D52A

Waste Management Factoids

This is from the website SourceWatch and their page on Waste Management. It says that WM has the dirtiest environmental history of the "big three." The webpage says that most of WM's landfills are feared likely to become environmentally toxic superfunds - and that WM gets federal grants to "clean up" the superfunds that they CREATE.

It's easy to hide a lot of things behind an ever-changing kaleidoscope of LLCs, subsidiaries, and affiliates, and many large corporations and investment groups do this sort of thing. Read more here: www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Waste_Management

As of 2000, Waste Management had 1,674 subsidiaries. I found this LIST here. The information is from the 2000 Corporate SEC filing. I couldn't find any current information on how many subsidiaries and affiliates Waste Management has currently, but I found these stats in Waste Management's 2011 Financial Report (from the WM website).

WM owns 271 landfill sites, manages 287 Transfer Stations, and its affiliate, Wheelabrator Gas-to-Energy facilities has 22 plants in the U.S. WM also operates 107 MRFs.

Also in WM's 2011 Financial Report, under Environmental: WM was notified that they are a Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) in connection with 80 locations listed on the EPA's Superfunds National Priorities List. 17 of these National Priorities Superfund Sites are owned by WM. The other 63 are in various stages of procedure, based on allegations that certain of WM's subsidiaries transported Hazardous Waste to these sites (according to WM, many of the sites were polluted prior to WM's acquisition of them, or from management through their subsidiaries and affiliates. Further research would be needed to confirm or deny WM's claims.)

Budgetary Concerns

The County says it is broke and loses more and more money every year on SW operations and upkeep. If that is so, then why does The 2011 Annual Report show the larger picture, which indicates that the culprit for the deficits is not solid waste alone?

sanjuanco.com/Docs/CAgendadocs/02-28-2012/CA_2011FourthQuarterBudgetReport_02282012.pdfPlease see page 8, "Enterprise Funds" chart and text.

Council has repeatedly said that the Solid Waste operations are a losing enterprise for the County. The concerns and questions raised below should be of equal importance and concern to the County, whether the County is in the Red or the Black.

Since the County lumps several things together and then averages out the budget, I don't think it's accurate or fair to to blame Solid Waste expenditures and deficits for the County's budget shortfalls. Solid Waste is not the only area of Enterprise Funds that is consistently over-budget.

In 2011, San Juan County Solid Waste and SW Projects funds made gains - not losses. Actual, compared to budget allotted, shows gains in every area except SW projects, and that had to do with securing the Lopez facility. Solid Waste was in the black in 2011. It looks like over $400,000 was made in 2011.

It is confusing to be told that we are sinking, and that solid waste is losing money, when the numbers show something different.

I understand that some of this is loan money, and some is from delaying stormwater improvement expenditures. But - it seems a weak and disingenuous argument to say that we HAVE to choose Cimarron due to our financial woes, when we have made financial gains of over $400,000 in Solid Waste in 2011.

If we had been implementing robust reduce/ reuse/ recycling programs all along, as the Citizens wanted, the numbers would have likely have been much better for SJC's solid waste and recycling revenue gains. Perhaps it's time to admit that though the County can't picture a way to proceed, the Public can.

If we had been given a Plan "C" ballot measure back in Nov. 2011 (i remember suggesting a Plan C to Council) - to let the Public help direct the direction we wanted to go, I am sure that a Parcel Tax or some other way to pay for recyclables and reuse might have garnered Public support, and we would have not taken all the local control of self haul and recycling out of our New SWMP to try to cobble together a plan that betrays all that we citizens have said we've wanted for years and years.

Cimarron Litigation Links

www.ci.sedro-woolley.wa.us/Home/deluxe_recycling.htm All the documents of Sedro Woolley, pertaining to the litigation with Skagit County

www.ci.sedro-woolley.wa.us/Home/archive/Deluxe_Recycling/letter_to_commissioners_enclosure02252008.pdf Emails between Will W Honea (Skagit county Prosecuting Atty, and Mike Anderson (mayor of Sedro Woolley) and Eron Berg (Sedro Woolley) ; most recent at top.

Please carefully read the letter from Will Honea to commissioners, dated February 19, 2008 (Top email- starts on page 1). This letter details the Cimarron (Norm Wietting) /Deluxe Litigation(Larry McCarter) history. It may be one of the most important in understanding the history and fallout from the Cimarron contract with Skagit County, and Cimarron's selling it to Deluxe.

www.ci.sedro-woolley.wa.us/Home/archive/Deluxe_Recycling/20080509_Kunzler_PRR_Part03.pdf 48 pages of letters; see 2-page letter on bottom of document (pdf pgs 47 &48) from Will Honea, dated April 24, 2008.

www.ci.sedro-woolley.wa.us/Home/archive/Deluxe_Recycling/20080630_Honea_Memo_Regarding_Janicki_LUPA_Appeal.pdf testament/opinion of former public works director (who quit over the cimarron/deluxe deal and corrupt council members shooing it in)

www.ci.sedro-woolley.wa.us/Home/deluxe_recycling.htm Cimarron's Original 41 page contract - With Norm Wietting's signature. The two Commissioners who signed - Anderson and Munk- were friends with, and former business partners of, Cimarron's owner Ray Sizemore).Contract legality issues?

www.ci.sedro-woolley.wa.us/Home/archive/Deluxe_Recycling/20080425_ARSSR_EXHIBIT_D.pdf Newspaper article by James Geluso, Skagit Valley Herald, 2006

I hope that Council will at least read the top several enclosures of documents provided in the LINKS pages. I will be sending any other pertinent document links soon, as I am still doing research. I hope Council will at least look into what seems most at-risk, and proceed with caution and wisdom and come up with the best solution for one and all. Please ask if you need more information.

Can we prevent going down a one-way road self-destruction for self-haul, reuse, and local recycling?

I would like to know the proper procedure for myself, the Public, and/or the County, to obtain Standing on any of the above-mentioned concerns and issues, should things proceed to the Courts or to the Growth Management Hearings Board. Thank you for your consideration of these matters. A response is respectfully requested.

Sincerely,

Sadie Bailey Eastsound, WA

Letters to Editor - Solid Waste

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As a general contractor, I make dozens of self-haul trips each year to the San Juan Island transfer station, bringing many tons of debris from building and remodeling projects. Smooth operation of my business often depends on this service. Proposition 2 will guarantee the availability of a self-haul facility, and from my perspective, the $100 annual parcel fee I will pay as a property owner is a small price to maintain this service. In fact, with reduced tipping rates made possible by the parcel fee, I will likely pay significantly less overall for waste disposal. I know that the cost/benefit analysis differs based each individual’s circumstances, but I am willing to bet that there are hundreds of small businesses in the County that are similarly situated to mine.

Without self-haul, I would have a couple of options for waste disposal. One would be to arrange for direct transportation to the Skagit facility. I have done this on occasion, and while it is sometimes possible, it is currently far from convenient due to the lack of operators in the business. We simply do not have a developed market of private haulers here. Another option is to arrange for dumpster service on the jobsite. I do this on some jobs, and that will continue, but there are many jobs where the volume of debris does not warrant a dumpster, or where there is not room on the site to accommodate one. There has been talk of self-haul customers unloading their waste into the back of packer trucks. I think this is completely out of the question for contractors, except with the smallest of loads; this method will only serve homeowners who bring waste in cans.

I have heard many criticisms of the County’s past management of the solid waste program, and I think many of them are valid. I have talked to Council members about this issue, and it has their full attention. The County has a new Public Works manager, and I bet solid waste will be at the top of his list. Yes, there have been management problems and wasted money in the past, but I think we can leave these behind, and the program can move forward.

In general, I think a parcel fee is a good way to pay for a service like this. It is obvious that funding for our solid waste program—and, in fact, our entire county government—has been overly dependent on a never-ending real estate sales and construction boom. We all know now that is not going to continue, and that vital services cannot be funded by percentages of a shrinking pie. A parcel fee will get solid waste on a sound financial footing and away from dependence on large volumes of trash from construction. Curiously, with reduced tipping rates, the service may actually attract more construction waste, some of which is currently diverted off-island.

An unknown in all of this is whether or not service can actually be improved, rather than simply maintained. Can we get more open hours, at least during summer months? Can we restore the tipping floor, which is critical for unloading large loads quickly? Can we restore metal recycling? Perhaps we can, if we make the program financially healthy.

Proposition 2 may not be perfect, but it looks to me like a big step in the right direction, and I hope you will join me in voting yes.

David Meiland

MORE SOLID WASTE PARCEL FEE LETTERS

Letters to Editor - Solid Waste

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The vote on Proposition No. 2 will decide the fate of solid waste services in San Juan County.  Here are some important points (found in the San Juan County Council’s Resolution 43-2011) related to this ballot measure:

  • A ‘yes vote’ will establish a solid waste user charge (aka Plan A) and provide $1,000,000 - $3,000,000 for infrastructure improvements at the San Juan Island solid waste facility that have been a critical need and a top priority for many years.
  • A ‘no vote’ (aka Plan B) will require that future excise taxes (the taxes collected on all solid waste fees) be used to pay back the approximately $1,000,000 in solid waste program debt and cover ongoing administrative expenses and compliance costs associated with decommissioning the Orcas landfill.

     

    Remaining excise taxes will be available to pay for existing levels of litter, noxious weeds, beach watchers and household hazardous waste roundups but will be limited in the amount of funding available for these and other waste disposal and reduction programs.

  • Regardless of the outcome of the election, the county will consider (and is already considering) agreements for local control of the solid waste facilities by non-profit, public or private entities.

The Council has unanimously endorsed the user charge as the best way to a sustainable future for a solid waste program with robust self-haul, waste disposal and waste reduction components.

The user charge, if approved by the voters, will provide the additional revenue needed to maintain self-haul facilities on three islands, to reinstate solid waste services on additional islands, to pay back the debt, to pay necessary infrastructure improvements and compliance costs, and to maintain and expand waste disposal and reduction programs.

I recognize that there are improvements needed in San Juan County’s solid waste program.

The county has a highly qualified and capable new director of Public Works, and I am confident that he is up to the challenge.

If voters want to have a say in how solid waste is handled in the future, vote in favor of Proposition 2. Only if Proposition 2 is approved will there be an option for the county (or another public or non-profit entity) to manage our self-haul facilities with any profits kept in the program to reduce customer costs and/or expand services.

Please join me in voting Yes on Proposition 2.

Thank you!

Lovel Pratt 

Letters to Editor - Solid Waste

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Dear Editor:

I'm voting "yes" on the solid waste parcel user charge. The fee is fair and it assures that we control our solid waste system.

To charge an annual user charge and also reduce the per-container "tipping" fee so that the total income is limited to the amount necessary to keep the system working seems fair. Some may argue a fee based only on weight or volume is better but don't vote against this just because the Council did not give you that option.

Should the measure fail, the Council will turn over the solid waste system to a contractor - perhaps from the mainland -- even though that is not the question on the ballot.

No promise can be made that a contractor will cost you less or give you better service. It will be difficult to influence rates set by a commission in Olympia based on the information provided by the contractor. The contractor will be allowed full recovery of all costs to get the solid waste and recycling off-island to a landfill, and a healthy profit on top of that.

Self-haul rates are unregulated, and could be expensive, which will cause people to deposit irregular loads at vacant properties.

A "yes" vote will keep the self-haul facility open on each of the big islands. Without self-haul, the reuse programs like "The Exchange" are sure to die.

I live on a private road, far from curbside pick-up. I'll still have to aul garbage cans and recycling to the closest street on the day assigned. I want the privacy of dumping my own garbage, I want to keep critters from the roadside trash, and I don't want trash cans all over our rural roadways.

Join me and vote "yes" on the solid waste measure.

Randall Gaylord

Eastsound

San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney

Letters to Editor - Solid Waste

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Dear Council,

I am delighted you renegotiated Orcas Recycling Services to head the Orcas transfer station. My hope is you will reconsider contracting with Kentec since Waste Management will continue on a short-term basis to haul on San Juan Island. If haulage cost is high, consider contracting with the Town of Friday Harbor. It's self-haul and packer truck saved Town residents almost $100/ton taking material direct to Skagit including overtime for driver & ferry fare.

Read more...

Letters to Editor - Solid Waste

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As a general contractor, I make dozens of self-haul trips each year to the San Juan Island transfer station, bringing many tons of debris from building and remodeling projects. Smooth operation of my business often depends on this service. Proposition 2 will guarantee the availability of a self-haul facility, and from my perspective, the $100 annual parcel fee I will pay as a property owner is a small price to maintain this service. In fact, with reduced tipping rates made possible by the parcel fee, I will likely pay significantly less overall for waste disposal. I know that the cost/benefit analysis differs based each individual’s circumstances, but I am willing to bet that there are hundreds of small businesses in the County that are similarly situated to mine.

Without self-haul, I would have a couple of options for waste disposal. One would be to arrange for direct transportation to the Skagit facility. I have done this on occasion, and while it is sometimes possible, it is currently far from convenient due to the lack of operators in the business. We simply do not have a developed market of private haulers here. Another option is to arrange for dumpster service on the jobsite. I do this on some jobs, and that will continue, but there are many jobs where the volume of debris does not warrant a dumpster, or where there is not room on the site to accommodate one. There has been talk of self-haul customers unloading their waste into the back of packer trucks. I think this is completely out of the question for contractors, except with the smallest of loads; this method will only serve homeowners who bring waste in cans.

I have heard many criticisms of the County’s past management of the solid waste program, and I think many of them are valid. I have talked to Council members about this issue, and it has their full attention. The County has a new Public Works manager, and I bet solid waste will be at the top of his list. Yes, there have been management problems and wasted money in the past, but I think we can leave these behind, and the program can move forward.

In general, I think a parcel fee is a good way to pay for a service like this. It is obvious that funding for our solid waste program—and, in fact, our entire county government—has been overly dependent on a never-ending real estate sales and construction boom. We all know now that is not going to continue, and that vital services cannot be funded by percentages of a shrinking pie. A parcel fee will get solid waste on a sound financial footing and away from dependence on large volumes of trash from construction. Curiously, with reduced tipping rates, the service may actually attract more construction waste, some of which is currently diverted off-island.

An unknown in all of this is whether or not service can actually be improved, rather than simply maintained. Can we get more open hours, at least during summer months? Can we restore the tipping floor, which is critical for unloading large loads quickly? Can we restore metal recycling? Perhaps we can, if we make the program financially healthy.

Proposition 2 may not be perfect, but it looks to me like a big step in the right direction, and I hope you will join me in voting yes.

David Meiland

Letters to Editor - Solid Waste

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To the Editor:

I live on Waldron, and in spite of the low level of solid waste services available here, I strongly support the solid waste parcel fee.

Whether or not the County contracts for solid waste disposal services and thereby "privatizes" the solid waste functions is a side issue, but a vital one. The County could make a contract under either option. But if the County does contract its solid waste function (more likely under a "No" vote) things can happen that will seriously threaten local control.

  1. Today, the County can adjust rates and services. Under a contract, the power to regulate rates passes to the state utilities commission. Would you rather deal with the Council or make your case in Olympia?
  2. People who think they know what their future rates will be are kidding themselves. There is no contract yet. Once entered into, the County cannot change contract or performance bond terms.
  3. Keeping the County in control would permit it to deal with the "Friday Harbor" and other issues. Adjustments to make things more equitable may not be possible if the County grants control of its collection and transfer stations to the contractor.
  4. If a contractor goes bankrupt, its interest in the contract is protected The County's isn't. A national corporation may take over, approved by a federal judge. Rates would change again. Trash may pile up while the matter is in the courts. Think “New York City. If the County steps in to remove the solid waste...we're right where we started, with legal fees to pay.

Solutions that look simple often aren't. This one isn’t. This has to be thought through, not reacted to. Please vote "Yes" for the solid waste charge.

Thank you

Bill Appel

Waldron  

Letters to Editor - Solid Waste

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Dear Citizens,

Vote “NO” on the solid waste parcel user charge.

Help our citizens control recycling in a meaningful and sustainable manner.  Co mingled recycling is the direction the County continues to go, so say "NO".

Voting for more taxes will NOT make our Public Works Department more efficient.

Increased taxes will NOT increase recycling options.

Increased taxes will NOT lower solid waste or recycling costs.

Why finance a Public Works Department that has been fiscally irresponsible for years, despite having the highest transfer station rates in the State? Why not promote a pay as you use model, rather than a model that gives no incentive to lower landfill waste nor an incentive to recycle?

A local Co-Op, or local private enterprises, would provide lower prices, better service, and more choices.  These choices would also create more local entry level jobs. One thing is a given: If we continue with the Public Works model, YOUR costs will continue to rise while YOUR services go down.

Help businesses, like Consignment Treasures and The Exchange, prosper and grow as citizens learn how to properly Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Make an environmental difference.  Vote "No", to promote recycling in our community in a sustainable, efficient, cost effective, manner that encourages more reductions in our garbage waste stream.

We can have it all: Self haul, Recycling, Lower Costs, Better service.  We just have to say "NO" to Public Works and the co-mingling of recyclables. Vote “NO”.

Frank Penwell,

Consignment Treasures

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