A two-day conference next week to chart the future of garbage disposal in Spokane was on the verge of collapse Thursday.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner announced late in the day that she thought the so-called Solid Waste Summit, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, should be postponed.
Verner said Spokane and Spokane County have too much disagreement about the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System for the summit to be effective.
“At this time, it is in the best interest of everyone that the summit be postponed until such time as the city and county have a more common understanding,” Verner said. “It would be a waste of time to proceed as scheduled.”
County Commission Chairman Al French said he hoped to arrange a meeting Monday for commissioners to decide whether to proceed with the summit.
“My suspicion is we’re in a position to move independently of the city,” French said. “I’m not motivated to cancel the summit just because the city of Spokane doesn’t want to be part of it.”
Spokeswoman Marlene Feist said city officials likely would not attend the summit if county commissioners and officials of other cities go ahead with it.
The issue of how to reform the system, which currently is owned and operated by Spokane, has languished for years, French said. “It’s time to make a decision and chart a course forward.”
Spokane and Spokane County formed the system in 1990, but the county and other member governments have little or no control.
Now that Waste-to-Energy Plant bonds are about to be paid off and inter-government agreements are about to expire, the county and other member governments are demanding democratic rule.
“In the future, we’d like to have a little more of a seat at the table,” Cheney Mayor Tom Trulove said.
“It’s a surprise,” he said of Verner’s call to postpone the summit. “If we’re talking about a regional solution, I don’t see how it can go ahead without the city (of Spokane).”
Trulove said he and Cheney staff members will attend the summit if it happens.
Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey said City Council members, who meet Tuesday, will “just have to get together and talk about it.”
Towey said he thought the summit would have provided “a good exchange of information, but evidently she (Verner) thinks differently.”
County commissioners received a staff report this week that Spokane Valley and Spokane County might save money by forming their own system and trucking garbage to regional landfills.
But, Towey said, “I don’t think we’re at that stage yet. If all the parties had been there, I think the summit would have helped out a great deal.”
Trulove said Cheney officials want the best price and service and, if the current system collapses, “we’d look to whatever coalitions can deliver those things.”
French said he thought an agreement this week between city and county attorneys went a long way toward resolving the disputes Verner cited.
Attorneys agreed there is a way for Spokane to levy garbage-disposal and electricity-generation utility taxes on its residents without charging other ratepayers, French said.
Other disagreements generally boil down to whether a regional board would have full operational control of the garbage system, and whether to consider alternatives to the Waste-to-Energy Plant.