Competition for Orcas dump goes into extra innings

By Steve Wehrly/Journal reporter

Orcas Recycling, operator of the Exchange at the Orcas Island transfer station, put on a full-court press to save its bid to operate the county-owned, but soon to be privatized, tipping floor and self-haul facility.

Pete Moe, Michael Greenberg, Mark De Tray and as many as 60 Orcas volunteers did some old-fashioned, grass-roots lobbying — telephone calls, letters and a petition — to stymie approval by the San Juan County Council of the vendor selection committee’s recommendation that Cimarron Trucking of Anacortes be selected to operate the facility.

The community action apparently worked. County Council Chairwoman Patty Miller guided the July 24 council meeting away from approving the recommendation at the meeting.

Instead, Miller and the council agreed that both bidders should address “deficiencies” and “limitations” in their proposals before the council takes further action. The one deficiency on members’ minds was how and whether the Exchange would be included in future facility operations, a point made by at the meeting by both council members and selection committee members.

Although Miller stood by the selection committee’s “unanimous” recommendation, she did not want to enter into contract negotiations with Cimarron “before Cimarron addresses how they will work with the Exchange.”  Miller said she “wants them [Cimarron and Orcas Exchange] to work together … this is a great opportunity for both parties to be part of the overall strategy on reuse and recycling” on Orcas Island.

Speaking by video hookup from Orcas, Lisa Byers and Jeffrey Struthers, the two Orcas residents on the selection committee, agreed with Miller.  Both urged the council to work with Cimarron and Orcas Recycling, though Byers thought Cimarron should continue its present role of transporting garbage off-island and Struthers thought Cimarron was “better prepared to start on day one.”

Councilman Richard Fralick, also an Orcas resident, encouraged the parties to get together. Fralick said, “Both parties should move forward in negotiations and both sides should be able to respond to a list of questions.”

Councilman Howie Rosenfeld spoke in favor of Orcas Recycling: “If the community rises up and wants to take this on, that means a lot to me.”

After the meeting, De Tray and Greenberg didn’t declare victory, but did acknowledge satisfaction that the council wanted both bidders to clarify identified problems and inadequacies in their respective proposals. “We got the opportunity we wanted to address the perception that we weren’t ready to operate the transfer station,” said Greenberg, Treasurer of Orcas Recycling, the non-profit company that operates the Exchange. “We’re prepared to address the perceived limitations in our proposal, and we appreciate the council’s response and look forward to working with them in the future,” added Greenberg.

Blair Estenson, President of Cimarron Trucking, said in a statement, “We will answer all questions and concerns in the coming several weeks. We know the Exchange is there and will be there in the future, and we think they’re doing an excellent job. We’re prepared to work closely with the Exchange and the Orcas community on reuse and recycling questions. We think we are clearly in the best position to make the transition from government to private operation of the Orcas transfer station and we look forward to convincing the County Council to accept the recommendation of the selection committee.”


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