Friday Harbor Town Council keeping future solid waste options open

The Town of Friday Harbor will keep its options open while the county determines what to do about its solid-waste transfer station on Sutton Road, according to town officials.

During a joint meeting Tuesday of the town and county councils, Town Council members said tipping fees will be a deciding factor on whether the town continues to be a refuse customer of the county or starts up its own solid-waste operation at the town-owned Sutton Road site.

"If going with the county facility works best for our ratepayers, then we have to do that," Town Councilman Christopher Wolf said. "If it doesn't, then we have to take that under consideration. In the end, people in the town pay the price."

The price to be paid for construction of a new solid-waste transfer station remains unclear. According to preliminary estimates, provided by the county Department of Public Works, it could be between $4.1 million to $7.1 million, depending on which site the County Council selects. However, the 26-acre parcel on Sutton Road — leased to the county by the town, and the bulk of which contains a defunct, capped landfill — is not the leading candidate.

Though the final decision rests with the County Council, the Solid Waste Advisory Committee and the Public Works Department both have selected county-owned property on Beaverton Valley Road as the top choice for a new solid-waste facility.

Seeking assurances, County Councilman Bob Myhr, Lopez/Shaw, asked whether the town could commit to disposing its trash at a county-run facility even if the solid-waste operation moves to a different location.

The town and San Juan Sanitation, the county's franchise hauler, are the two largest customers of the solid-waste operation, a $3 million-a-year enterprise that generates nearly all its operating revenue from tipping fees.

"I'd would find it kind of discouraging if the county chose another site and then the town chose to use the existing site for continued operations," Myhr said.

No such assurances were forthcoming.

In fact, Town Councilwoman Carrie Brooks noted the county, and perhaps the town, could be on the hook to pay for upgrades at Sutton Road as a result of its recent inspection by the state Department of Ecology. She blames the county for the site's degradation and for whatever improvements Ecology might demand.

"We're the landlord, and you've been really bad people to take the facility and let it deteriorate the way it has," Brooks said. "We're not confident it's going to work the way you're hoping it's going to work if you went somewhere else or even if you stayed at our place. The history of the system has not been really good."

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