Letters to the Editor

Proposition 2 looks like a winner for small businesses | Letters

San Juan Island contractor David Meiland - Contributed photo
San Juan Island contractor David Meiland
— image credit: Contributed photo

As a general contractor, I make dozens of self-haul trips each year to the San Juan Island transfer station, bringing many tons of debris from building and remodeling projects.

Smooth operation of my business often depends on this service. Proposition 2 will guarantee the availability of a self-haul facility, and from my perspective, the $100 annual parcel fee I will pay as a property owner is a small price to maintain this service. In fact, with reduced tipping rates made possible by the parcel fee, I will likely pay significantly less overall for waste disposal.

I know that the cost/benefit analysis differs based each individual’s circumstances, but I am willing to bet that there are hundreds of small businesses in the county that are similarly situated to mine.

Without self-haul, I would have a couple of options for waste disposal. One would be to arrange for direct transportation to the Skagit facility. I have done this on occasion, and while it is sometimes possible, it is currently far from convenient due to the lack of operators in the business. We simply do not have a developed market of private haulers here.

Another option is to arrange for dumpster service on the job site. I do this on some jobs, and that will continue, but there are many jobs where the volume of debris does not warrant a dumpster, or where there is not room on the site to accommodate one.

There has been talk of self-haul customers unloading their waste into the back of packer trucks. I think this is completely out of the question for contractors, except with the smallest of loads; this method will only serve homeowners who bring waste in cans.

I have heard many criticisms of the county’s past management of the solid waste program, and I think many of them are valid. I have talked to council members about this issue, and it has their full attention. The county has a new Public Works manager, and I bet solid waste will be at the top of his list.

Yes, there have been management problems and wasted money in the past, but I think we can leave these behind, and the program can move forward.

In general, I think a parcel fee is a good way to pay for a service like this.

It is obvious that funding for our solid waste program and, in fact, our entire county government, has been overly dependent on a never-ending real estate sales and construction boom. We all know now that is not going to continue, and that vital services cannot be funded by percentages of a shrinking pie. A parcel fee will get solid waste on a sound financial footing and away from dependence on large volumes of trash from construction. Curiously, with reduced tipping rates, the service may actually attract more construction waste, some of which is currently diverted off-island.

An unknown in all of this is whether or not service can actually be improved, rather than simply maintained. Can we get more open hours, at least during summer months? Can we restore the tipping floor, which is critical for unloading large loads quickly? Can we restore metal recycling?

Perhaps we can, if we make the program financially healthy.

Proposition 2 may not be perfect, but it looks to me like a big step in the right direction, and I hope you will join me in voting yes.

David Meiland

San Juan Island


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