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City OKs incinerator deal

County has final say on trash contract

The fate of a $25 million contract to operate the city’s West Plains trash incinerator will rest with Spokane County commissioners.

The Spokane City Council on Monday voted 6-1 to approve a three-year contract with Wheelabrator, the subsidiary of Waste Management that has operated Spokane’s Waste-to-Energy Plant since it began operations in the early 1990s.

The city runs the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System, but county commissioners have say over major contracts. Last week, they indicated significant concerns over the deal with Wheelabrator.

County leaders have long complained that the city has too much power over a system that affects all garbage customers in the county. They want the system to be run by a new regional government like the boards that lead the health district or the Spokane Transit Authority. To give local governments time to consider the future of a regional trash system, county and other local officials had requested that the city pursue a shorter contract with Wheelabrator so that they wouldn’t be locked into a 20-year deal.

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said a three-year deal “is not to the advantage of the ratepayers, but it’s constituted that way at the request of the county.”

The contract would allow the city to get rid of provisions in the city’s current contract with Wheelabrator that the city says discourages competitive bidding. It also would pay for plant upgrades along with plant operation.

Councilman Bob Apple said the contract likely will drive up the cost of disposing trash.

“We should have put it out to bid or should operate it ourselves – whichever would have been considerably cheaper than this option,” Apple said.