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Home » Archives » July 2011 » LETTERS ON SOLID WASTE FUNDING



(Note:Date above left is when the first letter was posted below on the subject)

Open Letter To Town Of FH Council


There was no excess in their gardens because they shared everything. There was no trash or garbage in their homes because they had a use for everything. They took responsibility for their lives and for whatever, whoever else needed them.
-- Home, Toni Morrison

Dear Town Council,

Consider Friday Harbor’s recycling and trash management. It costs the Town $89/ton to dispose at Skagit; it will cost an islander $373.75/ton on San Juan, shortly. SJC’s 20% tax is nearly 70% of $89.

Some cost difference pays for two elephants in the room: a million plus for County purchase of the Beaverton Valley transfer site and a required storm-water permit and upgrade for the Town’s transfer station. What will the latter cost? What portion of tax revenues will go to each? To private, for-profit companies?

Two Junk Bond issues sold out on Lopez to finance startup of its Solid Waste District which awaits November’s voter-approved funds. Artist
Kate Scott’s pipe whimsy of a Greek frieze around each $25 Certificate echoes imagination inherent in SJC Fair’s Trashion Fashion or Kevin Roth’s repurposed junk sculpture. With a population almost equal to Lopez and much greater density, what can Friday Harbor residents devise? . . . . .

We probably generate more trash per capita with the County seat, the ferry landing and being a visitor destination where business congregates.

Better answers to the disposal dilemma rest on more information:
what is the price paid per pound for aluminum, glass, paper, etc. Mainland cities often make a profit recycling to subsidize disposal. We own our own equipment & packer truck. Could a Town Firehouse Bay be repurposed for recycling or trash collection? Going to shop, people could place a bag in a compactor and pay $1 per Kings-size bag of trash. Or, place recycling into separate bins. A box already exists for utility payments. An honor system works at the Library, Stage Left & many local farms. A few cheaters are less objectionable than midnight dumpers. Make it easy and people will come.

Having paid to empty a dumpster every two weeks, monitoring is key. Neighbors and town subcontractors used 4-plex facilities. Reorganizing with support of tenants, who directly benefited from lower fees, reduced trash to one can per week and four per month for recycling. Aluminum is high graded for Consignment Treasures & dropped opposite Marketplace; paper is used for kindling; and, worms compost some household waste.

Last year, the Town removed trash for $167/ton. Figures vary with biggest variable of $20-$40/hour for wage & benefits. Mileage to Skagit & ferry fare are included. Friday Harbor might make a modest profit recycling or hauling waste. At minimum, calculate & compare business markups for private management. Solid waste is an essential public service; Town policy shapes economics. Please maximize employment and dollars spent on island while minimizing costs and maximizing benefits for Town residents.


Gay Wilmerding

Orcas 'Exchange' Supports Prop 2

To the Editor:

Why the Exchange supports Proposition 2 and why we think you should too.

Its not because we think its the best solution to our county’s solid waste program. Its because its the best choice being offered.

First of all, let’s recognize that waste management is a public issue. Not just because improper waste disposal has public health, environmental and economic ramifications, but because we are all contributors and users of our waste infrastructure. It is an essential public service, a utility, appropriately guided by and for the public good.

In our country, state and county, that public good is set forth in laws and Solid Waste Management Plans that describe the goals of a waste program and how a community expects to achieve them. San Juan County’s plan describes our unique island geography and our unique waste disposal challenges. Its most emphatic goal is to reduce our waste, process and reuse as much as possible locally and to export as little as necessary.

After 30 years of public education programs, we are all familiar with the 3R mantra of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. These are the worldwide tools of modern waste policy that underlie the ultimate solution to waste. Larger landfills, polluting incinerators and more trucks to haul it away are businesses that depend upon and profit from our collective shortfall in eliminating waste. They may treat the symptoms but do not cure wastefulness.

Since 1983 the Exchange has kept millions of dollars worth of reusable goods within our island economy that would have been exported as waste. It is one model of what an appropriately designed waste system can provide for the public good. There are few if any households on Orcas that have not benefited from the Exchange. We are so fortunate to be allowed to operate at the county waste facility where we can intercept the flow of waste and recover some of its value. Much more could be diverted from the waste stream, yard waste, construction materials, if there were more public commitment to reduction programs.

So what is the public’s position on waste?

Survey results, sentiments expressed at public meetings, petitions and citizens advisory committee recommendations indicate that we strongly support recycling, self hauling, “Take it or Leave it”, the Exchange and a desire for more local control over our waste programs. In short, we seem to support the goals of our Solid Waste Management Plan to reduce, reuse, recycle and export less.

But, and this is very important, Prop. 2 is being presented in a form that makes accepting a particular funding method as the only way to achieve these goals. And if we don’t like that method we have to abandon public control of our waste goals and infrastructure and turn the whole system over to private operators whose services and profits are based on waste volume not waste reduction.

We do need some form of public infrastructure funding if we intend to support our common goals. This could take many forms; separate island disposal districts; a countywide property tax; a combination of the two; or something else not on the ballot. What is on the ballot is a choice between a public system with community goals and benefits and a private system with private goals and benefits.

The Exchange is committed to the concept of waste reduction and its many benefits to our local economy. Its future can only be insured by continued public control of our transfer station on Orcas. Once privatized there is no going back. If a private entity controls the access and hours to the Exchange, be it the current hauler or some company that buys them out, we are no longer part of our community’s commitment to its waste management goals. Indeed there will be no community waste management goals beyond exporting waste to the vast landfills of eastern Oregon.

The choice before us is not the result of an informed public dialogue and understanding of the issue. On the contrary, it is the result of a largely ignored but predictable, long time, politically driven, public policy failure that confuses and divides rather than unites us in a common goal. Whatever the outcome, we can only improve solid waste policy or any public policy by electing and holding accountable, representatives who seek and respond to our input as citizens.

However short of ideal this parcel fee may be, it is not immutable. As long as we maintain public control and are willing to participate in and demand responsive government, we can modify county policy to suit our needs. Privatization of this essential public service is pretty much an admission that we can no longer govern ourselves in accordance with our collective values. What then are the prospects for our future as a community?

Please join the Exchange in support of Proposition 2 and a more cooperative and sustainable future.

The Exchange Board of Directors
Orcas Island
Reader Responds To Appel Letter

To the Editor:

It’s not surprising that Mr. Appel supports Proposition Two [Letter below -Ed]. He has been involved as an advisor (special civil deputy prosecutor) to the Prosecuting Attorney in crafting the “police powers” approach for the solid waste system, which is the basis of the Ordinance that Proposition Two asks the public to approve.

His letter continues the “fear and doubt” approach of some of the supporters of Prop. 2. This time it’s “Trash may pile up while the matter is in the courts. Think “New York City.” and “A national corporation may take over”.

His point 1) “Today, the County can adjust rates and services. Under a contract, the power to regulate rates passes to the state utilities commission” is unclear. The WUTC regulates only “curbside collection”. “Olympia” would have nothing to do with drop off service (other than environmental regulations). Competition should help control rates as alternatives would exist. (That’s in contrast to current, and Plan A, where the County’s monopoly is protected by the flow control ordinance.)

Point 2) seems to assume a contract with the County for operation of the current system. It’s not certain, of course, how Council will proceed if Prop. 2 fails, but discussion has been about a contract for someone to use the facilities to provide drop off service, not to run transfer stations for the County. County would be a landlord--that’s all.

“People who think they know what their future rates will be are kidding themselves.” This statement is almost amusing given the history of County rate setting. From history we know what County has done--raise rates. Given that the parcel fee is fixed for fifteen years, and cost increases are anticipated, we know what it will do in future, too--raise rates. The difference is that they’ll have to raise them faster than cost inflation (because the parcel fee portion of revenue is fixed). Of course, Council can always come back and amend the ordinance. It’s an ordinance, not a “contract” with the people.

Point 3) “deal with the “Friday Harbor” and other issues.” The ordinance already recognizes that the parcel fee cannot be imposed in the Town (but Town voters get to vote). Town would benefit from self haul and recycling, at rates subsidized by the parcel fee that its residents don’t pay. Perhaps this point refers to negotiating an even lower rate to Town to get their volume back into the system. (That’s been discussed in Council.) That might be “necessary” because the Plan A tipping fee is anticipated to be $200 a ton, whereas Town is spending something like $150 a ton hauling its collected trash to Skagit. The Solid Waste Subcommittee of the Council originally proposed to set the tipping fee at $150 a ton specifically to bring Town volume back into the system, but that would have required a parcel fee well over $100, which Council felt would be politically unacceptable.

Concern about “Adjustments to make things more equitable” is just ironic, given history and the Ordinance itself. Tipping fees have been set without regard for the actual cost of delivering the services. Recycling fees were set--and then set again--without regard (or understanding) of the cost of handling and disposal. (Currently if you bring up to a yard of recyclables to the station you pay $5 a yard. Two yards, $5 a yard. If you bring a packer truck full you pay less than $1 a yard.) The proposed “user fee” itself has nothing to do with actual use--it’s the same no matter how much trash you generate. County’s SW rates always have somebody subsidizing somebody else, sometimes without even being aware of it. “Equitable” has been used by County, repeatedly, in the Humpty Dumpty sense “it means just what I choose it to mean”.

It is very likely that robust self haul service will be available if County rescinds flow control and gets out of the business, We’ll have more efficient service more fairly priced.

The County has done a bad job with solid waste for a long time, and its flawed ordinance and ballot measure are further evidence of lack of attention to efficiency and fairness. It’s hard to find a credible reason to believe it would do better in future.

Please vote “no” on Proposition Two.

Allen Rosenberg
San Juan Island
Vote Yes On Waste Charge

To the Editor:

I live on Waldron, and in spite of the low level of solid waste services available here, I strongly
support the solid waste parcel fee.

Whether or not the County contracts for solid waste disposal services and thereby “privatizes”
the solid waste functions is a side issue, but a vital one. The County could make a contract under
either option. But if the County does contract its solid waste function (more likely under a “No”
vote) things can happen that will seriously threaten local control.

(1) Today, the County can adjust rates and services. Under a contract, the power to regulate rates
passes to the state utilities commission. Would you rather deal with the Council or make your
case in Olympia?

(2) People who think they know what their future rates will be are kidding themselves. There is
no contract yet. Once entered into, the County cannot change contract or performance bond

(3) Keeping the County in control would permit it to deal with the “Friday Harbor” and other
issues. Adjustments to make things more equitable may not be possible if the County grants
control of its collection and transfer stations to the contractor.

(4) If a contractor goes bankrupt, its interest in the contract is protected. The County’s isn’t. A
national corporation may take over, approved by a federal judge. Rates would change again.
Trash may pile up while the matter is in the courts. Think “New York City. If the County steps
in to remove the solid waste … we’re right where we started, with legal fees to pay.

Solutions that look simple often aren’t. This one isn’t. This has to be thought through, not
reacted to. Please vote “Yes” for the solid waste charge.
Thank you.

Bill Appel
Managing Waste

To the Editor:

The county of San Juan has proven it cannot manage solid waste or the waste of our money.

Not only will A YES vote cost all residential users more per year, but it will hit businesses much harder. Those costs will be passed on to consumers in higher prices for goods and services. All homes are charged the same fee regardless of property usage. A single person on a small property is charge the same as a large family on a large property operating a construction or small manufacturing company out of the home. Small businesses that generate a small waste basket of trash per week are charged the same fee as businesses generating a large dumpster of trash per week. The plan does not equate how much trash you create with how much you pay. Personally, I would be better off if the tipping fees were tripled and I only had to pay for what I take to the dump than with this plan.

I went to many of the businesses in the Main and N. Beach Road area Saturday, November 22, 2011, and asked the owner or employee if they were area of Proposition 2. Most were not and of the few who were aware of it they did not understand how it would work concerning the cost to them. None of them knew that they would be paying the cost of the “User Charge” either directly or indirectly. Also, none of the business owners knew that they would be paying both at home and at the business.

Because this “tax” has been labeled a “User Charge” they all thought that in some way it only applied trash hauling or tipping fees. The fee is charged to the building and not the businesses or residents even and empty building or empty rental will have to pay the “User Charge”. None were aware that even an empty building pays the fee.

At the town hall meeting Oct. 20 council persons could not coherently defend most of the details in this plan. Many of the questions or objections posed by Orcas citizens to this plan brought responses by Patty Miller and Richard Fralick of we feel, we do not know, it was assumed, we think, we are not sure. Chances are this plan will never see the light of day. Should for some reason it pass, it will be immediately challenged in court. The county can call it what they like but it is still an unfair tax. The county has made a mess of waste management. This poorly written plan by the council makes it’s obvious they cannot manage this system and it needs to be moved to the private sector.

No matter what we do the cost will go up considerably for waste management. That’s just a fact. A private company will have to manage the system in an efficient, cost effective way. If it does not, it can lose the contract to another company. There will be other issues we must address in our waste management future and address them we will. Now we must take the first step and get the county out of solid and financial waste. Vote NO on the Solid Waste of our money by the county. Vote NO on Proposition No. 2.

Don Pencil
'No On The Solid Waste Charge

To the Editor:

No On The Solid Waste Charge

As a veteran of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee who wearied of banging his head against the department of Public Works’ arrogance and lack of respect for the taxpayers, I urge you to vote NO on the solid waste charge.

There has been some recent progress towards a more rational trash system. A yes vote to extend funding for those who wrecked the current system is a step backwards.

Many voters are not familiar with some of the details of how we got into this mess. I know the majority wants a fair, logical, efficient process to dispose of our trash. Here are some reasons why the county administration and the PW staff are not worthy of your trust to continue their management.

“The past is never dead,” wrote William Faulkner. “It’s not even past.”

In any well-run municipal government, I believe the former San Juan County director of public works and the current solid waste senior management would have been terminated for cause.

That cause would be the astounding ineptitude and systematic false statements made about the condition of the Beaverton Valley property purchased by the county without proper due diligence or an accurate real estate appraisal.

In April 2009, a group of Lampard Road area residents including this writer took county council members Pratt, Peterson, and Rosenfeld to the exact location where the Public Works department proposed building a new multi-million-dollar transfer station.

Plainly visible was an illegal refuse dump containing asbestos, electronic and electrical debris, and containers that held petroleum and other toxic waste.

The property was appraised at $1.5 million in May 2005. Appraiser Terry Dorn warned the county, “The presence of contaminates such as asbestos or PCB may affect the value of the property. The value herein is predicted on the assumption that there is no such material on or in the property…

“I strongly recommend that they request, at a minimum, a Phase I Environmental Audit be performed.”

On a May 25, 2005 timeline, Shannon wrote “May 31st. Phase I ESA complete or waived.”

In all subsequent written or oral mention of the Phase I Environmental Audit, PW staff said it had been completed and the property was suitable for development.

On July 19, 2005, San Juan County paid $1.8 million for the property.

Our visit was a direct challenge to PW director Shannon’s recent false statement to the council that a Phase One environmental study had been completed on the property.

The toxic waste the council members observed belied every public statement and report made by PW staff and the hired gun consultants. Taxpayers paid for over $660,000 in consultant reports, including an immensely flawed Environmental Impact Study that somehow missed the toxic waste dump hidden in plain sight. Incredibly, this dump was under the footprint of the proposed complex.

That public money might as well have been burned. Thousands of hours of staff, SWAC, and private citizen’s time had been wasted on a false premise. The entire site selection process was a fraud, a dog and pony show. Very expensive mendacity prevailed.

Even more troubling, in every public statement, PW staff assured the public and the council that all due diligence had been scrupulously performed. The citizens and the council had been duped.

We asked the council members if this gross betrayal of the public trust meant that those responsible for the false reports and statements were incompetent or misfeasant. Were some of their most senior staff fools or liars?

The council members said they’d get back to me. Two years later, I’m still waiting for an answer. County administrator Pete Rose acknowledged that errors and misstatements had been committed, then swept the affair under the rug.

Why would Rose and the council refuse to thoroughly investigate such blatant behavior by the PW staff? One reason might be the closer one looked, the dirtier this deal became. Multiple elected and appointed officials charged with protecting the public purse and complying with state law appear to have failed their duty. The unacknowledged toxic waste dump was an apt metaphor for the moral and ethical operating conditions of the trash process.

While this was going on, the fiscal condition of the solid waste department was quietly going to hell. PW concealed the severity until after the council voted to keep the transfer station where it was.

The Solid Waste Advisory Committee, of which I was a member for a time, was told to butt out of finances. Previously, the monthly receipts and expenses of the trash operation had been reported to SWAC. This reporting was terminated.

When asked how the county could afford a new five to six million-dollar trash complex, then SWAC chair George Post said, “Don’t worry about the cost. They’ll find some way to pay for it.”

Now the current council has crafted an immensely flawed and unfair solid waste user fee that asks some taxpayers to finance the same failed course.

Rarely has one little box on a ballot held so much promise.

I hope the voters send a clear message to the council, who has much responsibility and little authority in this matter.

Not only no, but hell no.

False dealing and trimming the facts to support a pre-determined decision has no place in San Juan County. Perhaps Rose and the second floor clique might also get the message.

It would be a first step to weaken the culture of mendacity that has long soured this county government. A no vote is a vote to restore integrity, honesty, and comity to our civic affairs.

As for the future, SWAC member and San Juan Sanitation manager Calvin Den Hartog told me that private management of the trash system would reduce costs, improve service, and maintain recycling and self-haul.

Calvin also said he expected several private businessmen to bid on running a transfer station, if that came to pass.

I found Calvin to be a thoughtful, knowledgeable, and fair SWAC member. I believe him.

Thor Black told me he thought he could run the transfer station at lower cost and offer more services than the county does now.

Some public officials have attempted to frighten the voters into maintaining this failed system.

Many San Juan voters have restored old boats or houses. When faced with dry rot, you must cut back to good wood before beginning repairs. Short cuts and half measures are false economy. Trowling more rouge on the corpse inevitably leads to continued failure.

Please vote NO on the solid waste charge.

Mike Macdonald
San Juan Island
'Yes' Or 'No' On Parcel Fee?

To the Editor:

First I wish to thank Patty Miller and Richard Fralick for their collective work on this issue. It is complex and for most of us confusing. Let’s not forget the great attention to detail and pure energy our two elected (Orcas) officials are contributing in our collective behalf in these difficult times.
The ballot measure asks us to vote:

• YES -" to approve a parcel based user charge and maintain the COUNTY’s full involvement in the exiting solid waste system - i.e. the County is responsible for everything. The fee is relatively modest for most and more expensive for commercial business owners. Overall there is an increase in cost for everyone (no free lunches) to both operate the existing system and repay past debt obligations, OR
• No - to reject the parcel based fee and move toward a new system that may eliminate a lot of the overhead and capital cost structures. The new system would involve the contracting of services to private enterprises (e.g. San Juan Sanitation)

On Tuesday October 11, the Council passed SJC Resolution 43-2011. To their credit this resolution provides a good analysis and overview of the choices we face. After reviewing the resolution, meeting with Richard Fralick, and in extensive email communication with Patty Miller - I have arrived at a personal decision on the ballot initiative (which itself is a bit confusing in its wording!).

It is so easy to ‘stay with what is’ (existing system) and in this case vote YES and pay a $ 100 to $ 150 parcel fee. But the seductive nature of the small ‘fee’ masks something much larger and long term most troubling.

From the SJC resolution 43-2011:
• A YES vote (PLAN A) includes funds to maintain all three existing facilities (see p2) and the system will continue to be run by the county.
• A YES vote provides new infrastructure funds of $ 1 - $3 million for a San Juan Island facility or upgrade. (see p2 ) (Why do we want to take on more debt/cost?)
• A YES vote may maintain the full staffing of about 12 full time employees (2009 level) at a cost approaching $ 900,000 annually (with cost of living increases over time and health benefit increases averaging 8% per year) - while a rejection of the measure provides funding for one part time staff to focus on long range planning (see p5).
• A NO vote (Plan B) implies a primarily route collection system for garbage and recycling (see p3) - a new contracted and quasi privatized arrangement.
• A NO vote allows the contracted entity to (possibly) continue use of the facility (on Orcas and Lopez in particular) - and some flexibility to provide both existing and new services. (see p3 & 4)

The resolution is worth reading for an in depth comparison of the two options. But for clarity - these are two very different options. The real cost saving benefits derived from PLAN B (a NO vote) are precisely because that plan is no longer saddled with existing infrastructure and labor costs (in part) and because instead a private contractor is using its existing infrastructure with the added incentive to find ways to improve service and reduce costs. The new system asks us to actually pay what it costs - period.

For me, the decision is quite simple: Reject the initiative (a NO vote) and…
• Avoid taxpayer financing of $ 1 to $ 3M of new infrastructure costs in an existing system we have acknowledged is failing.
• Eliminate most of the current staffing by the country and save approximately $ 900,000 per year going forward.

What do I think we will lose in such a change: Not much, because….
• The county is willing (as noted in the resolution) to consider leasing existing facilities to the contractor and allowing continuation of some (if not all) existing activities - and perhaps the opportunity for new services (composting).
• The contractor may be local (San Juan Sanitation) and most of the route pickup is a state regulated activity - with a prescribed 7% profit margin (maximum).
• This is a special place and just perhaps a new system solution might best serve the needs of Orcas - let’s give it a chance.

Joseph J. Cohen
Orcas Island

To the Editor:

“The fee is fair and it assures that we control our solid waste system.” quoted from the lead paragraph of Randy Gaylord’s letter of October 18th in the Island Guardian.

One of the meanings of “fair” in Merriam Webster is “…marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism

I have questions for Mr. Gaylord, Lovel Pratt and other members of the County Council who favor this proposal.

• How is it “fair” that property owners pay a fee that other users will not have to pay?
• Who is this “we” he references? Is it “we the people”. It seems to be more of “we the county government” which has mismanaged and wasted our money for the past ten+ years to the tune of over $2,000,000 dollars. Why should we (the people) trust management of that operation to the mismanagement of the past?

If their definition of “fair” and “we” includes the partiality demonstrated by some of our council members toward an obviously broken system, we need to consider replacing those representatives and employees with others who have some concept of what fair is and who we are.

How many county employees would not be furloughed if we still had that $2,000,000? What about the new boat and front end loaders? If this were Denmark, then I might think something is rotten, but then I’m just one of those mean spirited and ill-informed people.

Dennis R. Hazelton
San Juan Island
Lovel Is Misleading

To the Editor:

In response to Council Chair Lovel Pratt’s letter 3rd letter down -Ed}, “Lovel Will Vote For New Parcel Fee”:

A “no” vote on the ballot measure does not “require that future excise taxes . . . . be used to pay back the approximately $1 million in solid waste program debt”. That’s strictly a Council decision. Council has chosen to take that approach to retiring the deficit. More accurately, Council has refused so far to consider any other approach. It has been suggested to Council--repeatedly--by various citizens, that the deficit ought to be treated separately from ongoing operations. A one year parcel fee or ad valorem tax, amounting to about $100 per parcel or less than $.125/thousand of assessed value, would be sufficient to retire the “debt”. This in contrast to the user charge of $1,000,000 a year for fifteen years.

The County’s willingness to consider “agreements for local control” is a very new willingness, and is far from agreement. And the timing of this announcement--as well as Public Works’ release today of a “draft” Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Plan which also purports to tell us what will happen under Plan A and Plan B--is problematic coming less than three weeks before the election day, and just a couple of days before people actually begin voting.

Because the “user charge” was set too low to cover the annual fixed costs of the system, for reasons of perceived political acceptability (see video of Council meetings), and is fixed for 15 years (according to the terms of the ordinance), it does not provide enough funding to make the system “sustainable”--not in the first year, and not in succeeding years as costs increase and other fees have to rise faster.

The “solid waste services on additional islands” the Council promises to reinstate amount, according to the Resolution 43-2011, to $22,000. (To put that in perspective, the expected annual revenue from the parcel fee is $1,000,000.) Council could easily choose to “reinstate” the $22,000 from the excise tax under Plan B, if it chose to.

The parcel fee is not needed to “maintain self-haul facilities on three islands”. If County exits the business, rescinds the flow control ordinance, and cooperates with one or more private operator(s), it is very likely that self haul service will exist on three islands--perhaps more--and at substantially lower total cost to the users than if County continues to operate the system.

It’s entirely possible that the new Director of Public Works is a terrific manager. That’s no promise, however, that he can fix a broken system, and one that even with excellent management and governance is likely to be substantially more expensive than transfer of solid waste on the mainland, for both self haul and route collected.

The County has done a bad job with solid waste for a long time, and its flawed ordinance and ballot measure are further evidence of lack of attention to fairness and efficiency.

Allen Rosenberg
Sand Juan island
Should We Give PW More Money?

To the Editor:
SW_Gordy_Letter-1 (134k image)

Gordy Petersen
San Juan Island

(According to the County Administrator's office: "The two new backhoes will replace three worn out backhoes and a skid-steer loader. Net cost for the two backhoes, after trade-in was $190K . That’s approx. $95K each. The ER&R fund can be spent only on equipment and the backhoes will replace older backhoes in the roads department if the solid waste issue fails." -Ed)

New Parcel Fee Will Not Solve Problems

To the Editor:

Vote “NO” on the solid waste parcel user charge. Help our citizens control recycling in a meaningful and sustainable manner. Co mingled recycling is the direction the County continues to go, so say "NO".

• Voting for more taxes will NOT make our Public Works Department more efficient.

• Increased taxes will NOT increase recycling options.

• Increased taxes will NOT lower solid waste or recycling costs.

Why finance a Public Works Department that has been fiscally irresponsible for years, despite having the highest transfer station rates in the State? Why not promote a pay as you use model, rather than a model that gives no incentive to lower landfill waste nor an incentive to recycle?

A local Co-Op, or local private enterprises, would provide lower prices, better service, and more choices. These choices would also create more local entry level jobs. One thing is a given: If we continue with the Public Works model, YOUR costs will continue to rise while YOUR services go down.

Help businesses, like Consignment Treasures and The Exchange, prosper and grow as citizens learn how to properly Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Make an environmental difference. Vote "No", to promote recycling in our community in a sustainable, efficient, cost effective, manner that encourages more reductions in our garbage waste stream.

We can have it all: Self haul, Recycling, Lower Costs, Better service. We just have to say "NO" to Public Works and the co-mingling of recyclables. Vote “NO”.

Frank Penwell,
Consignment Treasures
San Juan Island
Lovel Will Vote For New Parcel Fee

To the Editor:

The vote on Proposition No. 2 will decide the fate of solid waste services in San Juan County. Here are some important points (found in the San Juan County Council’s Resolution 43-2011) related to this ballot measure:

• A ‘yes vote’ will establish a solid waste user charge (aka Plan A) and provide $1,000,000 - $3,000,000 for infrastructure improvements at the San Juan Island solid waste facility that have been a critical need and a top priority for many years.

• A ‘no vote’ (aka Plan B) will require that future excise taxes (the taxes collected on all solid waste fees) be used to pay back the approximately $1,000,000 in solid waste program debt and cover ongoing administrative expenses and compliance costs associated with decommissioning the Orcas landfill. Remaining excise taxes will be available to pay for existing levels of litter, noxious weeds, beach watchers and household hazardous waste roundups but will be limited in the amount of funding available for these and other waste disposal and reduction programs.

• Regardless of the outcome of the election, the county will consider (and is already considering) agreements for local control of the solid waste facilities by non-profit, public or private entities.

The Council has unanimously endorsed the user charge as the best way to a sustainable future for a solid waste program with robust self-haul, waste disposal and waste reduction components. The user charge, if approved by the voters, will provide the additional revenue needed to maintain self-haul facilities on three islands, to reinstate solid waste services on additional islands, to pay back the debt, to pay necessary infrastructure improvements and compliance costs, and to maintain and expand waste disposal and reduction programs.

I recognize that there are improvements needed in San Juan County’s solid waste program. The county has a highly qualified and capable new director of Public Works, and I am confident that he is up to the challenge. If voters want to have a say in how solid waste is handled in the future, vote in favor of Proposition 2. Only if Proposition 2 is approved will there be an option for the county (or another public or non-profit entity) to manage our self-haul facilities with any profits kept in the program to reduce customer costs and/or expand services.

Please join me in voting Yes on Proposition 2.

Thank you!

Lovel Pratt
San Juan Island

(Pratt is a member of the San Juan County Council -Ed)
A Vote For Plan 'A' Is A Vote For A Fair System

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
A Vote For Plan 'A' Is A Vote For A Failed System

To the Editor:

A Vote For Plan 'A' Is A Vote For A Failed System

To the Editor:
The County press release (published last week in the Island Guardian) announcing the parcel fee ordinance says that the voters are being given a choice between two future solid waste systems, “Plan A” and “Plan B”, but only the parcel fee--which is part of Plan A--will be on the ballot.

Really, the choice in this election is whether to continue the failed current system, changing only the way we pay for it. Plan A is designed, managed, and governed by the same County government responsible for the failures of the current solid waste system. It doesn’t fix the system, or offer more service, or find a less expensive responsible solution. It’s just more money overall, and pays for it partly with a fee on developed parcels, instead of people paying directly for disposal of the solid waste they actually generate.

There are a number of good reasons to vote against the parcel fee ordinance.

One is that this election can be seen as a referendum on County operation of solid waste services.

(For more on the topic see the
SWAC White Paper (.pdf (58\k file)

Allen Rosenberg
San Juan Island


[The following letters are in reference to a column by Gordy Peterson titled "New Heights of Absurdity") -Ed]

Rawson Informs Us

To the Editor:

Kit Rawson, who writes {See: "My Fantasy Is..." 2nd letter below -Ed] letter in response to Gordy Peterson’s column on our long solid-waste nightmare, claims to dream of San Juan County citizens “treating each other, and especially their elected politicians, with respect,” yet his letter is condescending in the extreme. (He expresses surprise that Gordy might have read Sartre. (Who hasn’t?) He enlightens us with the French title of the Sartre play.

He states that Gordy’s columns (or the Guardian’s columnists, it’s not clear) write often about freedom but seldom “think it through in depth.”) Somehow, Rawson makes a transition from his condescension to superiority, letting us know that he bicycles his trash off-island (possibly a violation of the flow ordinance), and suggesting that we be forced to deal with our trash ourselves, rather than shipping it off island. This, he reasons, would force us islanders to start taking steps to reduce waste and toxics, something he apparently believes that we have been incapable of addressing in the past.

Funny, I thought that islanders were pretty good at recycling and reducing already -with different but creative approaches developed on each island. In fact, many of the issues in solid waste have resulted from too much recycling, if such a thing can be.

Islanders have, however, been waiting for close to a decade for their “elected representatives” to address the solid waste transfer issues. The dedicated efforts of our current Councilmembers to resolve the problems have been complicated by a huge funding deficit run up on the watch of the last group of Commissioners for a super-duper shiny new facility in a wetland.

Turns out people didn’t want that. And now we face the consequences of our former leaders’ actions, and are getting a tad testy.

Shame on us. I guess we need to follow the lead of our betters on the mainland.

Peg Manning
Endgame with No Exit

To the Editor:

I too, like Kitt Rawson [//letter below-Ed//] , enjoyed Gordy Peterson's recent depiction of the
County's sorry solid waste saga playing out as post war absurdest theater.
It is a good metaphor, not only for the garbage problem, but the deeper
dysfunction in our county government that mirrors some elements of island
culture that seem to be running it these days, with the best of intentions.

Sarte's play, No Exit, by the way, features a mirror, or actually the lack
of one. One of the damned, who had lived a preening, narcissistic life of
self love and adoration (not uncommon with some elected officials voters
seem to favor these days) discovers that in hell, there are no mirrors.
Imagine an eternity with no possibility of self-reflection. This is the
punishment of a life ruined by incessant navel gazing that loses sight of
reality and humanity as a result. But, I digress. The reason I write is
that part of the plot line described in this otherwise terrific letter
about the garbage we live in might have as its source a different play
called Endgame, written by Samuel Beckett, a contemporary of Jean Paul

This makes perfect sense in a way. Our county government has become an
absurdist drama, an Endgame with No Exit. In any event, Endgame does
feature several characters who live in garbage cans. Beckett is perhaps
best known for his other famous play, called Waiting for Godot. In that
play, several tramps sit under a dead tree and waste time complaining
about nothing much happening while waiting for someone who never shows up.
This too, is a good metaphor for the current state of county government.

Here's a plot synopis of Endgame, for students of theater, and local
politics: "The setting for Endgame is a bare, partially underground room,
serving as shelter for the four characters: Hamm the master, Clov his
servant, and Hamm's father and mother, Nagg and Nell (who live in garbage
cans). Hamm is in a wheelchair and makes Clov move him around the room,
fetch objects, and look out the window for signs of life. Outside all
seems dead and nothing happens. Inside, the characters pass the
time mortifying each other and toying with fears and illusions of a
change, all along sensing the inevitability of their end."

Richard Civille
San Juan Island
My Fantasy Is...

To the Editor:

I am surprised, but pleased, to learn that Gordy Petersen is
interested in Jean Paul Sartre. Sartre’s main topic was human freedom
-a concept often mentioned in these columns, but seldom thought
through in depth. A major theme of Huis Clos, the original French
title of the play Mr. Petersen references in his column about solid
waste, is “l'enfer, c'est les autres”, or “hell is other people”.
Indeed, like many things, the garbage problem would be a lot simpler
if all those other people didn’t generate it too.

As I rode my bicycle off of San Juan Island today, with my weekend
garbage stowed in a plastic bag in one of the panniers, I wondered
just what could be done about this situation. My garbage will be
picked up from my mainland house by Waste Management (a private
company whom I pay regularly for this service) and eventually shipped
to a landfill east of the mountains. If I had managed to get it to
the island dump, it would have also gone east, albeit on a different
Here, I realized, is the essence of the problem -- the islands have
adopted the mainland’s solution to the garbage problem. Clearly, “one
size fits all” answers are not applicable in San Juan County, no sir.
Perhaps this mainland-style trans-mountain garbage shipment is the
root cause of the present conundrum. So I propose that The Mainland,
apparently the source of all evil to many islanders, request (or
demand) that no more San Juan County garbage be sent there. Islanders
would be forced to deal directly with their own waste.

This isn’t a solution per se, but I’m guessing that it might be an
effective catalyst for constructive action. I’ll bet, in this
hypothetical situation, that the community would quickly figure out
how to collectively reduce waste, especially toxic substances, and how
to cleanly store whatever remainder was inevitable. I am pretty sure
that uncooperative naysayers would be asked to be quiet, or simply
ignored. The situation would just be too critical to tolerate

Of course my fantasy is about as likely as seeing San Juan County
citizens treating each other, and especially their elected
politicians, with respect. But I can dream, can’t I?

Kit Rawson
Mount Vernon and San Juan Island
What's The Problem With High Rates?

To the Editor:

Speaking as one whom Gordy describes as "the condemned" (an island resident) I ask a simple existential question: what is wrong with having the highest waste disposal fees in the galaxy?

We are Washington State's wealthiest county (per capita). Our citizens' voting records indicate also that we're dedicated believers in ever more power and money to government.

We accordingly should welcome the opportunity to put our cash behind our beliefs. Let us also charge an "idiot's fee" to tip our garbage. This fee would reflect our collective pride in voting for the county leadership we've tolerated for the last 15 years.

As a prior-life resident of Texas, I recollect some proven concepts of business efficacy. But as they would fall largely on deaf ears, I'll muse about them silently as I enjoy my presence in this island paradise.

Albert B. Hall
Friday Harbor
What You Should Do Now

To the Editor:

I would like to thank Mr. Petersen for his humorous column on an otherwise serious subject. I believe Mr. Petersen has left out 2 very important items that I would respectfully put forth.

1) Please contact your council representative in writing or by email. Let them know that you are vehemently opposed to this proposal and that it will not pass. Suggest to them they straw poll, realize this doesn't have a chance of passing, and skip the election. Take the money necessary to conduct the election, don't spend it. Please focus on serious solutions.

2) Plainly put: Please vote no on this if it ends up on the ballot.


Harold Wilson
San Juan Island

Tom Bauschke
John Evans
Mary Kalbert
Ron Keeshan
Gordy Petersen
Janice Peterson
Bruce Sallan
Terra Tamai
Amy Wynn
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