Opinion

Vote against the solid waste parcel fee | Letter

by Sam Jacobson, Ed Kilduff, Allen Rosenberg

Defeat of the parcel fee ballot measure does not mean mandatory curbside collection.

Defeat of the ordinance means the end of county operations of solid waste transfer stations – which have been badly managed and governed for years, have been two to three times as expensive as those on the mainland, and even with such high prices have run up a substantial deficit.

If county gets out of the solid waste business, users of route collection services will see lower rates, the county’s people and businesses would pay less overall, and for- and non-profit entities will very likely provide more efficient and comprehensive solid waste services – including “self haul” for all who need or want it.

County currently only “transfers” most garbage and co-mingled recycling.  All other waste services are already provided by somebody else.  Careful and conservative economic modeling indicates that a private operator can provide drop off (“self haul”) garbage and recycling service at cost lower than the County will or can, making a modest profit doing so.  This because of lower overhead and lower staffing – not low-paid labor – hauling direct to the mainland, as the Town of Friday Harbor does now.  Competition with route collection and direct haul to the mainland (once the monopoly protection of “flow control” is rescinded) will ensure that prices stay reasonable.

Plan A and the parcel fee doesn’t improve cost efficiency or substantially broaden service.  Prices at the dump will drop, subsidized by the parcel fee imposed on virtually all developed parcels (excepting those in the Town of Friday Harbor, whose residents get to vote on the fee but don’t pay it).  The great bulk of parcels will pay $100 a year, ($150 with ADU) without regard to the actual amount of solid waste they dispose of – which ranges widely – plus dump and/or pickup service fees.  Families generating more solid waste than average will pay less than their fair share, and those who generate less will pay more.  The more you throw away, the greater the subsidy.

Recycling will be priced below the full cost of handling and disposal.  That means that garbage, and the parcel fee, is priced higher.  It also means that co-mingled recycling is subsidized, which undercuts efforts to provide segregated materials recycling.

HHW, litter, noxious weed disposal would continue as current in both Plan A and B, paid for with the excise tax county intends to continue to collect.

The parcel fee is ill conceived and unfair – and, as structured, won’t make the system “sustainable”.  Because the total collected, even in the first years, doesn’t fully cover fixed costs, the system will continue to be vulnerable to volume swings. And it’s set for 15 years, so increases in all costs will require greater increase in tipping and gate fees.

For more thorough explanation of the situation and Plan B, please see the White Paper available at http://planbanotherway.com.

Please vote against Proposition 2.

Sam Jacobson and Allen Rosenberg live on San Juan. Ed Kilduff lives on Lopez.

 

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