Contributed photo/Orcas Recycling Services

Contributed photo/Orcas Recycling Services

Orcas Recycling Services finalizes lease agreement with county

The recycling center on Orcas is one step closer to opening after contract negotiations were set at the June 6 San Juan County Council meeting.

The center’s lease agreement with the county was extended to 30 years and includes the storefront, which county officials are constructing.

“It made more sense to do a standard, more commercial-style lease, kind of like a mortgage,” Orcas Recycling Services Executive Director Pete Moe told the Journal. The Exchange is set to open by late summer or early fall, he added.

The nonprofit board for ORS oversees the reuse store, called The Exchange, which closed when it was destroyed by a fire in 2013. ORS officials have also operated the Orcas Transfer Station and leased the site’s land from the county since 2013. The original lease was for five years, said Moe, with a five-year renewal option. An amendment to that agreement was unanimously passed at the meeting.

“The proposed changes would really provide some more latitude for ORS to run the site,” said County Manager Mike Thomas at the meeting.

In 2016, county officials earmarked funds to construct the shell of The Exchange building. ORS employees are responsible for interior improvements — from adding electricity to painting walls — as well as repaying the county for building construction.

In addition to the lease extension, the amendment:

  • Includes a repayment schedule to the county for constructing the building.
  • Allows ORS to build outdoor storage, which is currently prohibited by the agreement.
  • Opens options for discussions with county officials to finance business equipment. This way, ORS employees could finance other facilities to handle compost or separate recyclables by material, said Moe.
  • Sets the base rent for the transfer station at $700 a month for 360 months. Rent for The Exchange building will be calculated when the final cost of building construction is determined.
  • Lowers the first agreement’s high insurance standards when working with subcontractors who don’t handle solid waste. For instance, ORS must have a minimum of $3 million liability insurance, but not the landscapers they hire.

ORS officials are strategizing how to handle intake at The Exchange, which Moe said will be finalized by their opening date. Almost four years without an on-island recycling center may over-fill the site, he fears.

“The day we open the doors, we think we will be absolutely inundated with people dropping off stuff,” he said.

To stagger intake and raise funds, ORS supporters recently held a raffle to schedule appointments to drop off items at The Exchange before it opens, as well as have items picked up. Winners will be announced the week of June 12.

Since the 2013 fire, $245,000 was raised to re-construct The Exchange, said Moe. ORS officials reached their 2017 fundraising goal over Memorial Day weekend when $90,000 was donated. A donor added another $10,000 for meeting the goal before June.

For more information about ORS, visit