October 19, 2011 in City

Creosote raises rail removal costs

County engineer to re-examine federal grant possibilities
By The Spokesman-Review
Rate hike on hold

 County commissioners declined Tuesday to approve an increase in the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System charge for garbage disposal until proposed changes in the system are ready for approval.

 The city of Spokane needs the rate increase to extend a contract for operation of the city-owned Waste-to-Energy Plant, but the county controls disposal rates.

 Before granting the increase and losing their leverage, commissioners want the intergovernmental agreement that established the system to be amended to clarify issues related to the planned creation of a new system in 2014. City and county officials say they are close to an agreement, and the issue is to come before commissioners again next week.

Spokane County’s duty to remove railroad tracks from Fairchild Air Force Base will cost almost $252,000 more than expected.

Assistant County Engineer Chad Coles told commissioners Tuesday that the soil under the tracks is contaminated with creosote and must be hauled off to a special landfill.

Additional excavation, testing and disposal at Waste Management’s nearby Graham Road Recycling and Disposal Facility will increase the project cost by more than half, to $751,777, from $457,215.

Fairchild officials helped the county get a $500,000 grant to do the work, and Coles wasn’t optimistic about getting more federal money. He said his preliminary inquiries indicated “there’s no room at the inn.”

Nevertheless, commissioners directed him to try again. If the effort fails, the money will have to come from the county’s general fund reserves. Department heads already are pleading for relief from budget cuts they’ve been told to expect.

Commissioners questioned the need to spend $30,000 on landscaping the ground where the track was located at the front edge of the air base.

“We agreed to do that, but that’s when we had money to do it,” Coles said.

The county’s obligation to remove the abandoned track springs from commissioners’ decision in 2004 to take over the former Burlington Northern spur line to save up to 400 rail-dependent jobs.

The Air Force wanted the rail line removed from the base for security reasons, and Burlington Northern planned to abandon it. Instead, the county realigned the spur in a $6.7 million project that was almost completely paid for with state money.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners appropriated $28,000 to lock up an option to buy a 6.6-acre trucking depot at 4101 E. Broadway Ave. from Paul and Willene Allison for nearly $1.2 million.

The property is next door to another trucking depot, owned by the city of Spokane, that has been the focus of plans to establish a new, more regional county animal shelter.

Commissioners Todd Mielke and Al French believe the Allison property will prevent the need to evict two trucking companies that use the city-owned property.

Commissioner Mark Richard voted not to proceed with the Allison purchase option on grounds that it would disrupt the trucking companies’ shop and washing facilities.

Previously, Richard opposed the decision by Mielke and French to ask voters to approve a tax levy to build the proposed animal shelter.

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