05/03/2012: "-- Guest Column --"
By Sam Jacobson
Randall Gaylord’s letter [see below -Ed] is classic rhetoric used to cast fear, doubt and uncertainty on the opposing side. His argument focuses on selective “unknowns” that go along with Plan B. [related story-Ed] Sure, some exist -and much has been done to address these issues (see http://planbanotherway.com/ for more information).
While Mr. Gaylord introduces on a few scare tactics related to Plan B, he avoids a slew of things we know to be true if you vote “yes” on the solid waste user fee:
• Plan A is more expensive to our community, much more than the current prices, which are already the highest in the state. Plan B is likely to be significantly less expensive.
• Plan A incorporates 5-8+% annual increases in labor/benefit costs for solid waste personnel, including both direct labor and overhead.
• Plan A funds a new facility on SJI, of unknown design and undetermined cost and indescribable function -and the second on the same island. Given the $1,000,000+ deficit and decreasing customer/tonnage volumes within the system, does now seem like the time to expand? Plan B does not require the building of new facilities.
• Plan A does not collect fees from residences or business or public entities in Friday Harbor, which means that they will be taking advantage of services that they don’t have to pay as much for as, say, someone who lives just outside of Town -or on Lopez or Orcas. Landowners outside of Friday Harbor will unfairly subsidize system costs with their parcel fees. Plan B asks that users of the system pay for what they throw out - nothing more.
• Plan A does not offer additional services. Under Plan B activities like steel recycling and segregated household recyclables would likely expand.
• Plan A maintains County control on tipping fees and gate fees. Mr. Gaylord mentions unregulated rate concerns? The County has increased self-haul tipping fees from $238/ton to $355/ton (nearly 50%) in just the past 5 years. And they’ve started charging for recycling in the past year. Plan A asserts that this isn’t enough funding, so they’re asking for more? Talk about “unregulated” self-haul rates!
Like Mr. Gaylord, I, too, live at the end of a long, narrow, private road. I used to be a self-hauler, but now I get roadside service instead of the opportunity to wait in a long line and pay more at the poorly run county-operated facilities. I continue to take my reuse to non-county, non-profit operated facilities. And I can’t wait for the convenience of placing my recyclables 50 feet from my house, rather than the 5 miles to wait in line at the County facility.
Yes, some unknowns exist with Plan B, though not as many the proponents would have you believe. And the known features of Plan A are actually quite discouraging, because they’re more costly and just as inconvenient as the already poorly run system.
Progress is not made by doing the same thing we’ve been doing…it’s made by making a decision to do things differently -and better.
Join me in voting “no” to tell our County government that we demand more than the same failed system they’ve created, at an even higher cost.
(Sam Jacobson is the Chairman of SWAC (Solid Waste Advisory Committee))
To the Editor:
I’m voting “yes” on the solid waste parcel user charge. The fee is fair and it assures that we control our solid waste system.
To charge an annual user charge and also reduce the per-container “tipping” fee so that the total income is limited to the amount necessary to keep the system working seems fair. Some may argue a fee based only on weight or volume is better but don’t vote against this just because the Council did not give you that option.
Should the measure fail, the Council will turn over the solid waste system to a contractor -perhaps from the mainland -- even though that is not the question on the ballot.
No promise can be made that a contractor will cost you less or give you better service. It will be difficult to influence rates set by a commission in Olympia based on the information provided by the contractor. The contractor will be allowed full recovery of all costs to get the solid waste and recycling off-island to a landfill, and a healthy profit on top of that.
Self-haul rates are unregulated, and could be expensive, which will cause people to deposit irregular loads at vacant properties. A “yes” vote will keep the self-haul facility open on each of the big islands. Without self-haul, the reuse programs like “The Exchange” are sure to die.
I live on a private road, far from curbside pick-up. I'll still have to haul garbage cans and recycling to the closest street on the day assigned. I want the privacy of dumping my own garbage, I want to keep critters from the roadside trash, and I don’t want trash cans all over our rural roadways.
Join me and vote “yes” on the solid waste measure.
Randall Gaylord, Eastsound
San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney