Trash solution found; residents get wish to have waste transfer station located 'someplace else' | The Gerbil

San Juan Island residents
San Juan Island residents' wishes come true: Public Works have acquired an island and renamed it to reflect islanders' desires to have the waste transfer station built 'someplace else.'
— image credit: The Gerbil

John Rothlisbaker was nearing San Juan Island’s solid waste transfer station when he began to daydream about how he’d spend Sunday afternoons if he weren’t stuck in a big long line of pickups, waiting to unload a bundle of trash.

If only there was someplace else, he thought, other than Sutton Road.

“It’s just excruciating,” Rothlisbaker said. “And when it’s football season? Don’t get me started.”

On Tuesday, however, Rothlisbaker’s daydream came true.

The County Council on Tuesday charted a new course for the future of San Juan Island’s solid waste program. The council, with financial backing of the San Juan Island Community Foundation and the Land Bank, voted without dissent to purchase a small, uninhabited island located elsewhere in the county and to turn it into a solid-waste transfer station.

“Not having to hear about solid waste or its money woes was the No. 6 most frequent response on our latest community ‘needs assessment’,” said Charles Anderson, chairman of the Community Foundation, which will contribute $500,000 toward the purchase. “There’s not much we can do about the Top 5.”

After months of debate, council members determined the price tag for bringing the Sutton Road facility up to state standards — and the political price to be paid for doing so — would be too steep.

“I think we could get just about everybody onboard if they knew it wouldn’t be in their backyard,” Councilman Rich Peterson said.

Council Chairman Richard Fralick agreed.

“As long as it’s located someplace else, I think our chances of finding a stable source of funding are exponentially better,” Fralick said. “It seems most islanders will pay a premium to keep any kind of essential public facility out of their backyard.”

On advice of Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord, the council voted 5-1 to rename the island “Someplace Else” and said its location would not be revealed so that islanders can say with a straight-face that they don’t know where their garbage goes and that it’s not their fault that they don’t know.

Councilman Bob Myhr, who cast the lone dissenting vote, failed to persuade his colleagues on the name “Lemony Clean.”

Councilman Howie Rosenfeld of Friday Harbor described the solution as “elegant.” But he doubted everyone would be entirely satisfied with it.

“I think we’re onto something,” Rosenfeld said. “There’s gotta be a solution for the Ferry Advisory Committee that’s as equally elegant. We probably wouldn’t have to worry about the Open Meetings Act if it met someplace besides Friday Harbor, like Anacortes.”

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