Voters will pick Plan A or Plan B to decide on solid waste system funding and services

On Nov. 8, voters in San Juan County will choose between two alternative ways of providing and funding recycling and solid waste disposal services.

The County Council formally agreed last week to forward that choice to the voters.

County Council Solid Waste Subcommittee Chairwoman Patty Miller said that “the economics of the current system have failed.”

Reductions in the volume of garbage in San Juan County since 2007, have created a critical situation because the solid waste program relies on income from fees based on the weight or volume of the waste brought to its facilities.

Despite cuts in staff and service hours, the system’s expenditures have exceeded revenue by more than $1 million.

One alternative that will appear on the ballot has been dubbed, Plan A, and will maintain the current three-facility system and reinstate some services historically provided to the outer islands.

It would be financed, in part, by a new annual charge on developed property, along with reduced tipping fees for both garbage and recycling and a “gate” fee at county solid waste facilities.

The council will regard a no vote on Plan A as a vote in favor of Plan B.

Under Plan B, the system would continue to operate with volume-based revenue, primarily with “roadside” collection of garbage and recycling by a certified hauler. The council has agreed to make county facilities available for lease to a private enterprise to provide drop off services.

“The solution that would work best for each household will depend on how you individually manage your waste,” Miller said. “For some citizens Plan A will result in a lower cost and services more aligned with their needs. Other citizens may judge Plan B to be the system of choice. Both options will achieve the primary goal of ensuring a reliable means of disposing of our waste and recyclables.”

Over the course of the next few weeks, the county will publish a series of articles and news releases that explain the advantages and disadvantages of each program.

Several council members will host Town Hall meetings on the various islands in September and October to answer further questions.

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