Opinion

Solid waste site: Selection process is dangerously flawed | Guest Column

By Mike Macdonald

The county’s failure to comply with the Comprehensive Plan threatens to needlessly increase costs of the decade-long transfer station replacement effort.

Nearly $3 million has been spent on property, consultants, design fees and staff time in the current round. Taxpayers lost an estimated $1 million on the 2003 Trash to Treasure debacle, with no answers supplied to taxpayers. The combined tab is nearing $4 million before ground breaking on a new facility.

At a time when our kids’ school lunches depend on the kindness of strangers and teachers are paying for basic supplies out of their own pockets, this is a travesty. We cannot afford continued waste and inefficiency in pursuit of a “state of the art” trash facility that most taxpayers oppose. It is time for the County Council to rein in an out-of-control process.

The Comp Plan elements either ignored by Public Works or not analyzed by the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) include requirements to:

— Remodel or expand existing solid waste facility.
— Avoid duplication of town and county trash facilities.
— Minimize public cost.
— Minimize impacts on natural and rural environment.
— Maintain as safe and efficient road system as possible.

None of those requirements are discussed in the draft EIS done by Gary Harshman of AMEC, consultants hired by Public Works and paid a reported $150,000. “There’s no deal breaker. I think all the major issues at any of the sites are mitigateable,” Harshman said to The Journal, despite the omissions.

Public Works has run up a recent legal bill of about $13,000 for outside counsel.

According to county sources, no one in planning or public works has determined if the EIS meets the scoping document’s requirements, as required by Washington Administrative Code.

Major conclusions and significant areas of controversy are ignored or avoided and facts cherry-picked to favor moving the trash facility — disregarding cost, increased danger or public inconvenience. State law requires an EIS be a neutral depiction of relevant facts, not an advocacy of a particular action. While not worthless, this draft EIS, in my opinion, gets an “F” for Incomplete.

Another consultant paid for by Planning wrote, “The EIS is not explicit enough in comparing the alternatives.”

The EIS is flawed by lack of specific information and measurements to determine traffic, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and increased congestion in town. It lacks the necessary information for the Solid Waste Advisory Council or the County Council to make an informed choice.

When prudence requires a correction of the flaws, Public Works demands haste, allegedly wanting this lame-duck council to make a decision before the final EIS is delivered to the incoming council. That would be a decision we’d regret for years.

Concerned citizens have recourse. Attend the DEIS hearing Thursday. Attend the SWAC meetings Sept 15 and 29. Ask hard questions. It’s your money and your county government.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.

— Mike Macdonald is a Solid Waste Advisory Council member. This is personal opinion.

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