Higher garbage rates approved by Port Angeles City Council to fund landfill work

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — City Council members have approved garbage rate hikes to repay about $16.19 million in bonds to be issued for a project to prevent decades of garbage from falling into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

After five years of rate increases, the 2,784 city residents getting garbage picked up weekly, who will pay $386.04 annually this year, will pay $508.12 for the service annually in 2019, an increase of $122.08, or 31.6 percent.

The 4,260 every-other-week customers will pay $317.76 annually in 2019, which is $73.56, or 30.1 percent, more than the $244.20 they will pay annually this year.

Overall, monthly garbage pickup rate increases would average 5.6 percent per year until 2018, according to city figures, dropping to a 4 percent increase for 2019.

The increases are needed to repay municipal bonds the city plans to issue to fund the bulk of a multimillion-dollar effort to stabilize a failing bluff just north of the city’s transfer station.

The bluff is threatening to give way and allow garbage from the now-shuttered landfill to fall into the sea.

The increases join hikes in per-ton tipping fees at the Port Angeles Regional Transfer Station, which will go up 5.8 percent starting next year and increase an average of 5.3 percent per year over the next five years.

The increases go into effect Jan. 1.

Council members voted 5-1 Tuesday night, with council members Brad Collins opposed and Patrick Downie absent, to approve the rate increases.

Collins said he did not want to unfairly saddle city residents with the cost of paying to fix a problem created by county residents as well as those living in the city.

He also thinks the option chosen for stabilizing the bluff will cost too much.

“I think the solution chosen to stabilize the bluff is twice as expensive as it needs to be, so I will not be supporting this ordinance,” Collins said.

He also voted against authorizing City Chief Financial Officer Byron Olson to issue the bonds.

Crews with Magnus Pacific of Roseville, Calif., will dig up and shift about 399,090 cubic yards of waste buried in the city’s landfill, which was closed in 2007, upland from the edge of a 135-foot bluff to prevent it from falling into the Strait.

It also would augment the ends of the seawall at the base of the bluff to reduce erosion and perform restoration along Dry Creek, which sits just west of the failing bluff.

At the public hearing proceeding the vote, residents reacted against the city instituting higher rates.

“It’s exasperating. At some point, it’s like, where is a person supposed to find the money?” Cindy Turney said.

“I’m at a loss to find a way to pay.”

Resident Dale Wilson asked why the landfill stabilization effort and other large environmental projects, such as the city’s multimillion-dollar combined sewer overflow reduction effort, are being funded at the same time.

“You can say no, the sooner the better and the more often the better,” Wilson told council members Tuesday.

Councilwoman Sissi Bruch said the city cannot afford to further kick the can down the road on the landfill project.

“I think it would be irresponsible for us not to take care of this,” she said.

“I couldn’t sleep well at night knowing that we have abdicated our responsibility for this.”

Under the approved rate structure, the monthly rate for weekly residential garbage pickup would go up 6.96 percent, from $32.17 to $34.41, from this year to next.

By 2019, the rate for weekly pickup is expected to rise to $42.38, or 31.7 percent compared with 2014.

The monthly rate for every-other-week pickup would increase by 5.5 percent, from $20.35 to $21.46, from this year to next and go up to $26.47 by 2019, a 30.1 percent increase from 2014.

The per-ton rate for garbage hauled by residents to the city’s transfer station would go up 5.8 percent, from $170.11 this year to $180.05 in 2015, under the new rates and would eventually increase 31 percent to $222.91 by 2019.

Interest rates for the $16.19 million worth of bonds will be set June 19, Olson said.

Construction, design, project management and costs associated with administering the bonds bring the total cost of the project up to about $21.2 million, Olson said.

The city has secured $3.9 million in financial assistance from the state Department of Ecology.

Councilwoman Cherie Kidd said at Tuesday’s meeting that council members and staff continue to seek additional financial assistance for the project.

City engineering manager Kathryn Neal said Wednesday she has applied for a $7 million state public works trust fund loan for the landfill project.

The $7 million amount, the most that can be requested for a single project, would ultimately depend on approval from the state Legislature, Neal said.

Word on that funding would be expected in March.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 04. 2014 7:27PM
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