Closing transfer stations is not the answer | Editorial

Come January 2011, the only transfer station in the San Juans could be on Orcas Island.

That cannot be the only solution to county’s Solid Waste Division’s financial woes. The $5 recycling fee is one step (it will raise some $240,000 in 15 months, offsetting some $300,000 in annual recycling expenses). Working with Friday Harbor to get the town back into the system is another (the town paid $662,584 into the system in 2008-09).

How money is being spent is the big one. Refuse took in $4.9 million in operating revenue and $3.5 million in operating expenses in 2008-09. But any money that can go into reserves has been eaten up by the San Juan waste transfer station site selection process, improvements needed at the San Juan and Orcas transfer stations, and a downturn in revenue from disposal fees this year. Today, the Solid Waste Division is roughly $630,000 in the hole.

Leaving open only the Orcas Island transfer station would not improve the situation. Islanders would have to take their refuse and recycling there, or go to curbside pickup with San Juan Sanitation; a good idea, but problematic in some neighborhoods. The county should take a carrot, rather than stick, approach: Come up with an incentive program to encourage residents and businesses to switch to curbside pickup of refuse and recycling. The Journal and its neighbors share the $27 monthly cost of a recycling Dumpster, which is picked up once a month by San Juan Sanitation.

Other solutions? Councilman Bob Myhr, Lopez/Shaw, proposes a garbage rate increase of $1 per can and $37 per ton, which would raise more revenue and keep recycling free.

The Solid Waste Division has scheduled three public meetings on the issue. We encourage islanders to participate. The results of the recent countywide survey will provide the focus for discussion at the meetings. Check out the survey at http://sanjuanco.com/swmp/meetingnotes.aspx or pick up a copy at the library.

The next meetings are scheduled for Oct. 6, 5-7 p.m., Mullis Community Senior Center; Oct. 7, 10 a.m. to noon, Shaw Island Community Center.

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