Several cities in Spokane County are considering major changes in the way garbage is collected.
For residents, any changes result in an end to the practice of taking trash, clippings, hazardous waste and recyclables to existing transfer stations in Spokane Valley and Colbert or the trash incinerator on Geiger Boulevard.
The move could also affect garbage rates. It’s not known whether they would be cheaper or more expensive.
Elected leaders in Liberty Lake, Airway Heights, Deer Park and Millwood have issued a joint request seeking proposals for their future garbage planning and disposal. The deadline is May 8.
Spokane Valley has hired a consultant to work on a plan as a precursor to the city moving out of the existing garbage system.
Officials in most smaller cities said they might be able to get a better deal and reduce costs to their residents from private hauling to regional landfills.
“Let’s find out who can do it cheaper and better,” Airway Heights Mayor Patrick Rushing said.
County commissioners in February reached an agreement with the city of Spokane to take over responsibility for the countywide garbage system on Nov. 18. They have said they intend to leave operation of the system essentially unchanged.
The city of Spokane has operated the countywide garbage system since the $106.5 million incinerator began operating in 1991.
Distrust by small city officials of county commissioners is part of the reason the smaller cities are considering establishing their own garbage systems.
“We are not being dictated to by the county commissioners,” Rushing said.
The commissioners have issued an April 30 deadline for the county’s smaller cities, including Spokane Valley, to make a commitment to be partners in the revised regional system.
Commissioners have told the smaller cities that they intend to maintain the current disposal fee of $103 a ton.
That fee pays for regular garbage disposal, but also a host of environmental and educational programs required by the state.
Those include hazardous waste disposal, waste reduction, recycling, litter control, public awareness campaigns, volunteer programs, used motor oil handling, master composting, outreach to businesses and monitoring of old contaminated landfills across the county.
The cities can legally break away from the county system, but they would have to implement those programs on their own under strict state environmental laws.
Plus, residents of any breakaway cities who haul their own garbage to the three existing disposal points might not be allowed to dump at county-operated facilities starting Nov. 18.
Sunshine Disposal & Recycling, which operates in Spokane County, is reportedly considering construction of a facility that might be able to handle disposal for breakaway cities, said Jim Wavada, environmental planner for the state Department of Ecology.
The county is asking for proposals from private companies to operate the Colbert and Spokane Valley transfer stations as a way to reduce costs through privatization of the workforce at those stations.
Ken Gimpel, business manager for the Spokane city regional solid waste system, said, “I like to ask the question, ‘What’s broken?’ ”