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Solid Waste Advisory Committee will recommend parcel fee to provide steady revenue source for solid waste utility

Islanders could pay an annual parcel fee of $50 per developed lot and $25 per undeveloped lot, as well as a $5 fee each time they deposit refuse at the solid waste transfer station, to help fund solid waste services in San Juan County.

Those fees, unanimously endorsed Thursday by the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, are intended to provide a reliable revenue stream for capital improvements and other system investments. Currently, the solid waste transfer stations are funded by tipping fees, which provide revenue that fluctuates based on use.

In addition to the new fees, the self-haul tipping fee -- what individual islanders pay to dump their garbage at the waste transfer station -- would drop from $294 per ton, or 14.7 cents a pound, to $195.98 a ton. The $5 fee would not apply to those dropping off recyclables.

Revenue from the parcel fees and per-visit fees would go into a capital fund. Tipping fees would be used to fund operations; $20 of that $195.98 per ton would be used for reduce/reuse/recycle programs.

Solid Waste Manager Ed Hale projects a solid waste utility fund reserve of $700,000 over the next seven years.

“I'm not in favor of a new tax, but we need a stable and solid funding source,” Committee Chairwoman Carrie Lacher said.

The committee will present the plan to the San Juan County Council Sept. 15, 11 a.m. A public hearing is expected in the future.

Committee members discussed at length the fairness of the parcel fee; for example, whether owners of undeveloped land, such as farmland, should pay a fee when their land generates little or no refuse that is taken to the solid waste transfer station.

Committee member Peter Risser said farmland does generate waste, that some undeveloped land is being held for future development, and that the value of all properties – developed and undeveloped – are enhanced by having a reliable solid waste transfer service.

Committee member Bob Freeauf said all islanders, for their investment, are co-owners of a facility that they now use or will ultimately use. Committee member Calvin Den Hartog of San Juan Sanitation said the solid waste utility should be treated like other utilities; electrical, phone and water utilities charge a base rate and a rate based on use. The base rate pays the capital costs of making the service available; the use rate pays the cost of the customer’s actual consumption.

Trying to balance the expenses of the solid waste utility on tipping fees alone has been a problem, Hale said. When volumes decrease, revenues decrease and the utility can't meet its expenses.

Committee member Howard Rosenfeld, who's also a San Juan County Council member, said some property owners reside on the island part time, “but we have to size (the solid waste transfer station) for when everybody's here.”

Steve Alexander, manager of the Solid Waste Division of Public Works, said tipping fees would have to be raised from $294 to $390 a ton to meet the division’s capital needs – which include construction of a new waste transfer station on San Juan Island – if a parcel fee and gate fee are not adopted.

The waste transfer stations on San Juan, Orcas and Lopez islands generate a total of 66,000 visits per year, Hale said.

Notebook … Steve Alexander, manager of the Solid Waste Division of Public Works, said SCS Engineers is accepting bids for a new cover for the tipping floor at the San Juan Island solid waste transfer station. He expects a plan to be implemented in October for the handling of stormwater runoff from the tipping floor area, and a tipping floor cover to be installed by April.

Proposed fees
-- Parcel fee, developed: $48.25
-- Parcel fee, undeveloped: $24.13
-- Per-visit fee (refuse only): $5
-- Tipping fee, per ton: $195.98

Community Events, April 2014

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