Solid waste parcel fee: possible rates and risks explored in Patty Miller town hall presentation

Council member Patty Miller created a powerpoint presentation to help clarify details and ramifications of the solid waste parcel fee measure at an Oct. 20 town hall meeting at Orcas Island's Eastsound fire hall.

Included are bullet-format slides like "What does the ballot measure do?", overviews for Plan A (if the parcel fee measure passes) and for Plan B (if the measure fails), Miller's assessment of risks under each option, and more.

Rate Comparison charts

A chart entitled "Residential Rate Comparison" includes examples of how much a single family household might pay annually under each plan, depending on amount of waste generated.

"The fees indicated ... are designed to show general direction of rates and not intended to be precise calculations," the page reads.

For example, the current annual cost of $689 to dispose of one can of garbage per week and one can of recycling every two weeks would change as follows: under Plan A, route collection would cost $629; self haul would cost $710. For the same disposal volume under Plan B, route collection would cost $540; self-haul for Lopez Island would cost $965; and self-haul for Orcas Island would cost $581.

The direction of changes in cost under each category varies based on amount of waste generated.

Another chart for "Commercial Rates" lays out potential costs for disposal of garbage only by retail establishments, restaurants and offices under each plan.

With parcel fee measure approval (Plan A), annual user charges that would apply to businesses under the measure range from $200 for a 2,000 square-foot building to $3,000 for a 15,000 square-foot building. Based on the charts, restaurants and food establishments pay twice the amount per 100 square feet than retail establishments and offices pay.

Assessed Risks

Miller said that the risks faced by San Juan County under Plan A are primarily economic, including the following:

◦ "Estimates for capital requirements for San Juan are based on preliminary engineering study."

◦ "State requirements for maintaining facilities continues to be more expensive."

◦ "Can we successfully manage operating costs growth?"

◦ "If waste volumes stay at current levels system, long term future is tenuous."

◦ "Commercial rate structure is extremely expensive for many of our small businesses already struggling."

◦ "We are pioneers of a solid waste user charge in Washington State. If successfully challenged it will pose difficulties."

Miller said the risks under Plan B are primarily operational and vision risks:

◦ "Placing high dependence on a single private entity who will only provide services if profitable."

◦ "Places solid waste focus on collecting and transporting solid waste off the island, with minimal maintenance of facilities."

◦ "Leaves no facilities for collecting and storing waste in the event of loss of transportation due to an 'event'."

◦ "Lack of full facilities restricts our ability to look at solid waste more holistically, expansion into composting, recycling construction debris, etc."

◦ "Will reuse (The Exchange) have same success with less self haul customers?"

Community input

Much of the community comment at the meeting centered around two points: the fairness of the parcel fee, and the potential for waste reduction under each plan.

Miller told the Sounder that the county council did not develop a parcel fee-based plan that would include special waste reduction facilities like composting or construction materials recycling, because the cost of such facilities and operations would steeply increase the annual parcel fee to roughly $150 or $200 per single family dwelling. MIller said the council determined that in this economic climate, such costs were too high to be accepted by voters.

If the parcel fee, Plan A, is approved, the county will continue to have similar services to those that are currently provided. Miller said waste reduction facilities or programs could be a possibility down the road, but are in no way guaranteed under or funded by the parcel fee.


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