By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Commissioners postponed the item indefinitely after hearing public testimony on “solid waste flow control,” which would help the city finance revenue bonds to relocate an old landfill cell that is in danger of slipping into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Ten speakers raised an array of concerns such as a monopoly for the transfer station, the ability to enforce the ordinance, the city’s management of the $19.6 million bluff stabilization project, liability and unintended consequences such as waste being dumped in the woods.
“I think that the bottom line is Wall Street is the one that’s manipulating this,” Kevin Russell of Port Angeles said.
Port Angeles Mayor Dan Di Guilio, Public Works and Utilities Director Craig Fulton, Chief Financial Officer Byron Olson, City Manager Dan McKeen and Deputy Mayor Patrick Downie spoke in favor of the ordinance.
“The landfill stabilization project is something that we have to deal with as a city, but it is a regional problem,” Di Guilio said.
“It’s not just a city problem.”
“Every jurisdiction within the county,” the mayor added, “has garbage in the particular cell that’s in danger of falling in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.”
City officials and county Public Works Administrative Director Bob Martin said the ordinance would save between $1.5 million and
$2 million in interest, depending on whether 20- or 25-year bonds are sold.
Flow control would prevent the city’s bond rating from falling from an “A” to “triple B,” officials said.
As a result, the ordinance would prevent the tipping fees at the transfer station from rising much higher than they already are, Martin said.
The edge of the landfill cell is 11 feet from the exposed bluff, and the rate of erosion is about 3 feet per year, Martin said.
The city has already secured $3.9 million in financial assistance from the state Department of Ecology for the bluff stabilization project but needs another $15.7 million in bonds to complete it.
Under the county ordinance, non-West End unincorporated residents would be required to haul their solid waste to the regional transfer station at 3501 W. 18th St.
It would not apply to recyclable materials, hazardous waste or waste generated on federal or tribal lands.
The county ordinance closely resembles a city ordinance that the Port Angeles City Council approved unanimously in February.
Garbage picked up on the curb through the city’s contract with Waste Connections already goes to the transfer station, as does most self-hauled solid waste generated in the unincorporated county.
The Port Angeles Regional Transfer Station charges about $170 per ton for solid waste.
By comparison, the transfer station in Kitsap County charges $65 per ton.
Martin estimated that the difference in the future tipping fees between Port Angeles and Kitsap County would be $108.55 per ton with flow control and $171.76 without it.
McKeen said there are “unintended consequences” on both sides of the issue.
“If we don’t get flow control, we’re going to see a higher interest rate on those bonds that we go out for, and that’s going to affect everyone in our area that uses that transfer station, not just in the city of Port Angeles but in unincorporated county as well as the city of Sequim,” he said.
“That will have an impact.”
After hearing extended public testimony, Commissioner Jim McEntire said he was searching for an option that “holds the city at least partially harmless for financing cost increases associated with the absence of a flow control ordinance.”
“There’s so many questions in my mind still existing about the cost effect on our citizens of a flow control ordinance,” McEntire said.
“I still don’t have a real clear picture in my mind of what that looks like.
“I’m not sure exactly how I should vote, how I am going to vote on this ordinance,” he said.
McEntire noted that “no action is action” because the city would default to a lower bond rating.
“I’m stuck,” he said.
The ordinance nearly failed Tuesday for lack of a motion to adopt it.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re done,” said Commissioner Mike Chapman, who had raised concerns about the city’s debt load when the ordinance was discussed in prior meetings.
Commissioner Mike Doherty pitched the benefits of using recycled construction materials, which are often superior to new products.
He noted that the city dump once provided low-income families with bikes and toy trucks, and suggested “a better way” to process waste than to ship it from the transfer station to eastern Oregon.
“Waste is not a term progressive communities use,” Doherty said.
“Waste is a natural resource reprocessed somehow. And later, you find a way to use it.”
Doherty called for more recycling and long-term sustainability.
“Personally, I can’t vote to set up a monopoly of basically a legacy system and to keep it going,” he said.
“Somehow, there’s got to be a change.”
Had there been a motion to adopt the ordinance, Chapman said he would have supported it only because of financial impacts to citizens.
“I have been roundly criticized over the years for a $90,000-a-year property tax increase that we vote on,” he said.
“This is a $2 million financial hit to the ratepayers, every citizen of this county.”
Chapman became visibly frustrated during the board’s half-hour discussion after the hearing.
“We’re willing to send $2 million to Wall Street over the next 20 years,” Chapman said.
“I’m about ready to get sick over that.”
Chapman said the ordinance could be amended or rescinded in six months.
“This is a crappy ordinance,” he added.
“I don’t like the ordinance. I never did like the ordinance. But at some point, do we like giving $2 million to Wall Street better?”
McEntire made a motion to postpone the item to get more information and to reflect on Tuesday’s testimony.
The motion was seconded by Doherty and passed unanimously.
No date has been set for reconsideration of the ordinance.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.