By Steve Wehrly/Journal reporter
The long and winding road to private operation of the Orcas and San Juan islands solid waste transfer stations turned the corner at the Nov. 20 county council meeting.
For both islands, the council voted unanimously in favor of the underdogs.
Orcas Recycling Services, the non-profit company that now operates The Exchange at the Orcas Transfer Station, was given the go-ahead to negotiate an operating agreement for full operations at the county-owned transfer station, including the garbage-truck tipping floor and recycling, reuse, and waste reduction programs included in a request for proposals issued by the county in May.
“It’s been a long road for us to reach this point,” said Mark De Tray of Orcas Recycling. “But at each step, our confidence increased as we improved our proposal,” he said after the council meeting.
For drop-box and related operations at the Sutton Road transfer station on San Juan Island, the council instructed the Public Works Department to negotiate a five-year operating contract with a consortium of Ken-Tec Energy USA of Lynnwood and Lautenbach Industries of Mount Vernon. Ken-Tec and Lautenbach were responding to a request for proposals issued in August.
For both locations, the county spurned proposals from Cimarron Enterprises, an affiliate of Cimarron Trucking, which presently hauls garbage and recycling from Orcas Island to facilities operated by Waste Management in Seattle and Woodinville.
In July, the initial report of the Orcas Vendor Selection Committee recommended the council select Cimarron to operate the transfer station. However, the council wanted more information from both bidders, resulting in both Cimarron and Orcas Recycling responding to a series of questions about their proposals.
The council then instructed the Public Works to negotiate two agreements - one for operation by Cimarron of the tipping floor and for removal of waste, the other for provision by ORS of recycling, re-use and waste reduction services. At that time, Councilman Howie Rosenfeld expressed his preference for local operators for the Orcas transfer station and drop-box.
Contract negotiations reached an impasse during late summer, as ORS insisted that recycling and reuse services were not sustainable unless ORS operated all aspects of the Orcas facility. Drawing on the experience and expertise of the Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District, Orcas Recycling kept refining its proposals. The final result was a contract-update memorandum by the Solid Waste Division asking the council to revisit its earlier decisions, which resulted with the council unanimously opting for a single contract with ORS for Orcas Island.
Similarly, the Vendor Selection Committee report for the San Juan Island station was expected to recommend that the county negotiate a contract with Cimarron for San Juan Island, but strong presentations by Kentec Energy USA and Lautenbach Industries convinced the San Juan Island Vendor Selection Committee to recommend exploring a contract with Kentec and Lautenbach.
“Kentec is offering an innovative approach that may be a long-term solution to the county’s solid waste problems,” said Councilman Rich Peterson, who is also a selection committee member reviewing proposals by Kentec and Anacortes-based Cimarron Trucking.
Kentec USA is the American affiliate of Ken-Tec Energy Korea, which builds and operates waste gasification plants in South Korea and Europe. Kentec USA proposes to build and operate a 10 to 20 ton-per-day gasification plant on San Juan Island. Lautenbach would continue to operate the present transfer station, and is proposing a variety of changes to the present facility, including possibly rebuilding the tipping floor to permit the Town of Friday Harbor to dispose of trash and recycling now being trucked to Skagit County.
Kentec claims their plant will operate with zero emissions and will incinerate all garbage, including processed or unprocessed human waste, from the entire county. According to Kentec, the reclaimed gases can be used to generate electricity on the island or sold a kind of synthetic propane for use as fuel for a variety of applications. The carbon-ash residue can be used in road-building or other applications.
The $8 million cost of the plant and the extensive environmental and regulatory hurdles that Kentec USA must overcome was recognized as a potential problem by the selection committee, but the draft selection committee report notes that the county will incur little or no financial risk from the gasification plant part of the project and that Lautenbach promises uninterrupted future services whether or not the gasification plant is built.
On Orcas Island, Orcas Recycling Services was excited to be designated to operate the transfer station.
“Now islanders can have the full waste disposal and waste diversion/resourcing services and lower rates they have mandated for so many years becoming a reality over the next five years of the contract,” ORS posted on its Facebook page.
ORS says the first year will be spent getting programs transferred over to their management and doing educational outreach and getting new waste diversion systems in place. Beyond that, the organization hopes to promote zero waste, local jobs and re-sourcing back to the community.
Mark De Tray, executive director of ORS, gave credit to “the people on Orcas who supported us tirelessly and people from Lopez who helped us put together our final proposal and budget.”
Hammering out a definitive contract will start next week, according to De Tray. “I want to thank the county council for giving us this opportunity,” he said. “We won’t let them or the people of Orcas down.”