Two picked to share Orcas solid waste operation

By Steve Wehrly/Journal reporter

The second verse was not the same as the first.

Orcas Recycling Services capitalized on a second chance to be part of the solid waste solution on Orcas Island by persuading the County Council to include them in contract negotiations for operation of the Orcas transfer site.

The council has been seeking private operators to provide solid waste collection and disposal services at its facilities on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez islands after voters in November rejected a property tax parcel fee to fund the county's solid waste operations.

Lopez citizens started the ball rolling immediately by proposing to operate the Lopez facility, a proposal approved by the council with the creation of the Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District. The council also approved the Lopez citizens proposal to partially fund the new disposal district's operations by putting a Lopez-only property tax increase on the November ballot. Some funding would also come from an increase in the solid waste excise tax, which was also discussed in generally favorable tones at the Aug. 21 council meeting.

The council in May had directed the Public Works Department to issue a Request for Proposals for waste transfer and self-haul services at the county-owned Orcas Island transfer station. Cimarron Trucking, which presently hauls county trash for landfill disposal by Waste Management, and Orcas Recycling Services, operators of the Exchange re-use service at the Orcas station, submitted proposals. After a vendor selection process recommended granting the contract to Cimarron, the council reopened the process by asking both parties to respond to further questions.

After reviewing extensive answers from both parties, the council, by a 5-1 vote on Aug. 21, authorized Public Works Director Frank Mulcahy to negotiate contracts with both Cimarron Trucking and Orcas Recycling Services for joint operations at the Orcas site.

Councilman Rich Peterson commended the Vendor Selection Committee final report, saying, "The report is very clear, giving a good sense of how to proceed to negotiate with both parties."

In making the motion for the dual negotiations, Councilman Richard Fralick, who represents half of Orcas Island, summarized what he thought should happen: "Contract negotiations should take into account the strengths of both sides - Cimarron dealing with the high volume of waste [from curbside collection by San Juan Sanitation] and Orcas Recycling to do its thing in pursuit of long-term goals to reduce waste and enhance recycling and reuse."

Mulcahy does not think either the budget or the timeline would be adversely affected by including two parties, admitting that multiple vendors would make negotiations "more complex than with one, but I don't see a problem negotiating with two parties."

Following the meeting, Mulcahy told Cimarron President Blair Estenson and Orcas Recycling Executive Director Mark De Tray to discuss the division of responsibility and property use between themselves and be ready for negotiations with Mulcahy, Russ Harvey and Utility Manager Ed Hale as soon as next week.

At that informal meeting outside the county council chambers, both Estenson and De Tray expressed confidence that the negotiations would be successful.


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