Next week’s regional Solid Waste Summit will occur with or without Spokane participation, County Commission Chairman Al French announced Friday.
The two-day gathering of local government officials throughout the county is intended to outline a new framework for the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System, which is owned and controlled by the city of Spokane.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said Thursday the conference should be postponed because the two biggest governments – Spokane and Spokane County – were too far apart on the issues.
“I believe the county may be actively trying to incite the deconstruction of the regional system,” Verner said Friday. “But the city of Spokane is actively engaged in trying to find ways to keep it together.”
The county and smaller cities want an independent, democratically controlled organization to take over. Commissioners also want to be able to consider alternatives to the Waste-to-Energy Plant, such as long-haul landfills.
Spokane wants to retain ownership and day-to-day control, and to have a “safe harbor” provision that Verner says would allow Spokane to “protect its interest in the event that any party tries to exercise unilateral control.”
Verner said Spokane “remains committed to ensuring that there is meaningful and viable participation by all of the jurisdictions in the system.” However, she said, there should be “consequences that cause a jurisdiction to pause” before taking action detrimental to the system.
“If jurisdictions are simply bargain hunting for the cheapest way to get their garbage out of sight and out of mind, they may want to explore long-haul,” but they’ll still have to deal with issues such as recycling, hazardous waste disposal and landfill liability, Verner said.
French said he is hopeful that commissioners and Verner can come to an understanding in a meeting Monday morning, but “we are prepared to move forward without the city.”
French said Cheney Mayor Tom Trulove and Airway Heights Mayor Richard Rushing confirmed they will attend the summit.
Later Friday, Spokane Valley City Manager Mike Jackson said he and Mayor Tom Towey also will come.
Spokeswoman Marlene Feist said Verner doesn’t plan to attend but is meeting with the commissioners on Monday morning.
The summit, which the public may attend, will be from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the CenterPlace Regional Event Center in Spokane Valley.