Port Townsend City Council considers solid waste services contract

Same firm that has had deal with city for 20 years is only respondent; floats rate increase

PORT TOWNSEND — The same firm that has had the solid waste services contract with the city for the past 20 years is the lone respondent to a request for proposal — but with an increase in the residential rate.

Previously known as DM Disposal, Olympic Disposal is owned by Waste Connections, one of three of the major waste companies in the U.S.

Greg Lanning, director of the city public works department, told Port Townsend City Council members at a Monday workshop that the services proposed under the new contract come with a market rate adjustment, an increase of 72 percent for a residential customer.

The current contract expires March 2020.

The proposed collection services include new automated trucks, and new garbage and yard waste carts in three sizes provided at no additional charge. Unchanged are the three-bin recycling units. Lanning noted that the trucks currently being used are quite old and need to be replaced.

Currently a 32-gallon every-other-week collection for a residential customer costs $10.66. The new charge would be $18.43 with a new container.

“Having only one company submit an RFP puts us in an awkward position,” said Lanning in an interview Tuesday.

He said he looked into a couple of options for comparison.

“We looked in great detail at giving up the authority and contracting with UTC [Utilities and Transport Commission] and found it would be more expensive,” he said.

“Then we wondered if the city itself could take it over and do a better job and be cost-effective. We would be a smaller company entering the market and it would be more expensive because of the ramp up, buying trucks, etc.

“Olympic is already in the game and they have economies of scale,” he concluded. “We can’t compete with them and run as a utility.”

Garbage is picked up and goes to the transfer station, then to a landfill located 200 miles away in Roosevelt.

Lanning said that much of the cost goes toward landfill charges of $158 per ton which equates to roughly 40 percent of the charge. If landfill charges increase 5 percent, Olympic can pass that charge through and adjust rates.

“We have curbside recycling that goes to Skookum for tin, aluminum, plastic, mixed paper, cardboard, and glass,” he said.

“It’s important that we separate our recyclables so they are usable downstream.”

Yard waste becomes compost.

City Manager David Timmons recommended that Olympic’s proposal be remanded to the budget and finance committee for further discussion.

“The City Council will see this proposal next month in April,” Lanning said.

“We would like to have a contract signed then so there is a long lead time to buy the equipment, the containers and the trucks which are a requirement of contract.

“If you look at the trucks now, they are pretty old. They’ve just been letting those trucks live their lives out. They need time to buy them and amortize over 10 years.”

Solid waste collection services are mandated by the city’s health code. In the early 1990s it was determined that picking up garbage was a health concern. Today, there are 3,900 residential and 400 commercial accounts in the city.

“Like a lot of other utilities, this one is ‘out of sight, out of mind’ until something goes wrong,” Lanning said. “We hope the next term of this collection services contract stays ‘out of sight out, of mind’ as well. It proves we are operating this utility in the right way.

“Probably the most calls I’ve gotten are connected to garbage.”

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].

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