With plans for a new countywide solid waste system in disarray, the city of Millwood is grappling with how to respond.
Spokane County has given city officials until April 30 to sign an agreement that would enable them to join the new system.
The issue stems from the county’s impending takeover of solid waste disposal from the city of Spokane, which has run the garbage system since 1991. Spokane Valley and Cheney also are contemplating other options for comparison purposes. Several smaller communities decided to band together to see if they could get a better deal elsewhere and sent out a request for proposals. Those are due by May 8 – more than a week after the Spokane County deadline.
The city’s current agreement for solid waste disposal doesn’t expire until Nov. 17.
The new deadline has officials in Millwood concerned.
“We have an obligation to our people to do what is right for us,” City Planner Tom Richardson told the Millwood City Council on Tuesday. “Up until about two weeks ago, I thought that we would have until July to sign the interlocal agreement with the county.”
Mayor Kevin Freeman is wary.
“I think it’s important to note that … we’re being asked to sign something in a two month period,” he said, noting the proposed agreement arrived from the county in March. “With no rates, no actual comprehensive plan.”
The county has said it plans to leave operation of the solid waste system essentially unchanged. As Richardson noted, the county does not plan on releasing the rate information until later this year. Under the proposed county agreement, the city would be obligated for at least three years before it could terminate the seven-year agreement.
“It’s really hard to endorse a system right now,” said City Attorney Brian Werst, “that you don’t know what it is.”
Richardson further told the council that the agreement does not give the city any governing authority in the management of its solid waste.
“They won’t allow us to become a partner at the table,” Richardson said “They’re treating us like a customer with a take it or leave approach.”
Werst also expressed concern over the flow control ordinance included in the county’s proposed agreement. The flow control outlines a system of solid waste disposal for all waste generated at designated disposal sites.
The agreement defines solid waste as garbage, rubbish, ashes, industrial waste, swill, sludge, sewage demolition and construction wastes, abandoned vehicles and contaminated soils and dredge material.
Werst said the county acknowledged to Spokane Valley by letter that the current transfer stations are not equipped to handle certain waste such as industrial waste, sewage, abandoned vehicles, sludge and contaminated soils.
“That allows those producers of those forms of solid waste to dispose of those forms of solid waste in a different manner not subject to flow control,” Werst said. “Currently there is no commitment under this arrangement as how that would be handled in the future.”
Richardson told the council its options are to ask for an extension from the county or sign county’s agreement and cancel the request for proposals it issued with Deer Park, Airway Heights and Liberty Lake. The council decided to set a special meeting on April 22 to discuss the issue.
“I see this as a due diligence on our part,” Councilman Richard Shoen said about exploring other options. “But I have a hard time imagining our four cities … being able to come up with this whole system and be able to do it cheaper than the countywide plan.”
“If they (Spokane Valley) go out on their own and we went along with them we wouldn’t be that small compared to a lot of the other counties in the state,” Richardson said in response to Shoen. “We would be the 11th largest system by population … As an economic unit it’s not insignificant … If we could save the people in Millwood $100,000 or $200,000 in next three years, that is significant.”