August 29, 2013 in City

Spokane garbage deal is best, consultant says

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Local government officials seeking to reorganize the region’s garbage system will find their best deal in an offer being made by the city of Spokane, a consultant reported on Wednesday.

That offer involves the city relinquishing control of the Colbert and Valley transfer stations to Spokane County in exchange for an agreement to keep garbage from outside the city flowing to the city-owned incinerator on Geiger Boulevard.

Agreements governing the existing system will expire in November 2014.

“The clock is ticking louder and louder every day” for a decision on garbage, said Bruce Rawls, a retired county utilities director now working as a consultant on the system’s redesign.

At issue is a desire by City Council members in Spokane Valley to examine options for garbage collection and disposal, including hauling garbage to regional landfills outside the Spokane area.

HDR Inc., a worldwide engineering firm, was hired on a $150,000 consulting contract to look at nine options and their likely costs in per-ton disposal fees.

Spokane city officials want to give regional control to Spokane County. The city would give up the two outlying transfer stations for a minimal fee in exchange for processing the region’s garbage at the city’s Waste-to-Energy Plant under a seven-year contract.

That scenario was calculated to cost $107 a ton in tipping fees.

In another option, the city would sell the two transfer stations at a fair-market cost of $10 million and then allow the county and other cities to go their own way.

Costs under that scenario would rise to $117 a ton, if the garbage is shipped out of Spokane by BNSF Railway, Rawls said.

New transfer stations are another option at a cost of at least $20 million. However, the existing transfer stations and incinerator are considered to be in good condition for continued use, the consultant said.

Building new transfer stations, including one for West Plains garbage, raises the cost to $128 a ton for shipping by rail and $155 a ton for shipping by truck.

The consultant also looked at building a rail loading facility on the county-owned Geiger Spur, which could be part of a wider future economic development effort on the West Plains. That option would cost as much as $135 a ton.

Ken Gimpel, business director for the regional solid waste system under Spokane city control, reminded elected officials at Wednesday’s meeting that serving the community is the priority.

That involves maintaining services for recycling, hazardous waste disposal, waste reduction, public education and litter control, he said.

“There hasn’t been a lot of talk about impact on customers,” he said.

County Commissioner Al French said in an interview after Wednesday’s meeting that Spokane Valley officials want to have enough control of their garbage flow to allow them the option of imposing a utility tax in the future.

Spokane Valley City Manager Mike Jackson said he supports continuing the arrangement with Spokane, but also wants to look at the flexibility provided by purchasing the Valley Transfer Station and shipping garbage by rail to a regional landfill.

Jim Wavada, environmental planner for the state Department of Ecology, said any changes will have to be formalized in a solid waste plan that meets requirements of state law, including protection of the environment and public health. State review is rigorous and can take months, he said, and the existing system is one of the best in the U.S. in terms of recycling.

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