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Valley goes with Sunshine over Spokane County

It’s official.

After years of discussions and negotiations over regional garbage disposal, Spokane Valley is going its own way.

City Council members decided unanimously tonight to contract with Sunshine Disposal & Recycling to handle disposal of the Valley’s estimated 45,000 tons of garbage each year. The decision follows years of discussions with Spokane and county officials as the region’s existing solid waste system is set to expire this fall.

“We’re acting in the best longterm interests of our citizens,” said Mayor Dean Grafos.

Spokane County had struck a deal with Spokane, which has controlled the regional system for two decades, to take over the existing transfer stations and had hoped to create a countywide system it would control.

Commissioner Todd Mielke made a last-minute push tonight to persuade council members to postpone a final decision and give the county a chance to beat Sunshine’s rate. Mielke said the city of Spokane was trying to work out a reduced disposal rate at its energy-producing trash incinerators on the West Plains, which would enable the county to offer a tonnage rate nearly $4 lower and could amount to millions of dollars in savings over the next decade.

But Valley leaders rejected the delay request, with some noting that the Valley had openly sought a partnership role in a regional system but was repeatedly offered only an advisory role. They also noted that Sunshine stepped up with a guaranteed rate while the county provided only estimates and contingencies.

Additionally, Sunshine officials said it needs to get started immediately with planned expansion and improvements it is promising in order to be ready by mid-November when the new arrangement takes effect.

For residents, little will change. Waste Management still will handle curbside pick up, but instead of dumping the garbage at county transfer stations they’ll drop their loads at Sunshine’s facility on University Road north of Interstate 90. The garbage then will be loaded for long-haul to regional landfills in Central Washington.

Valley officials estimate the cost of solid waste disposal will be cheaper with Sunshine than under the county system. County officials contend the savings, if any, would be minimal.

Valley Council favors Sunshine Disposal offer

Spokane Valley likely will be taking a pass on joining the county's regional solid waste system.

The city council unanimously decided tonight to advance a proposed contract with Sunshine Disposal & Recycling for final consideration next week, despite warnings from county officials who contend that comparisons suggesting Valley residents would save at least $250,000 a year are flawed. Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke said the difference between the Sunshine rate and the county's estimate is almost indistinguishable when all variables are taken into account, while Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn added that the county plan provides greater overall cost benefits and better customer service.

City officials stood by their comparisons, however, and council members said it would be irresponsible to move forward with a county plan that lacks any rate guarantees. Sunshine's offer included a guaranteed rate with future increases kept below inflation.

The proposed Sunshine contract will be brought to a final vote next Tuesday.

Several other cities across Spokane County were meeting tonight to consider private-sector options as well.

Look for a roundup later this week in The Spokesman-Review.

Saturday’s highlights

Ten-year-old Kaylee Martin and her mom Michele Martin browse the book selection at Liberty Lake Library on Tuesday. The library is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. SR photo/Kathy Plonka

Now that we're all back from a lengthy weekend, let's take a look at some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on the 10th anniversary of the Liberty Lake Library, which started with donated books. The full service library is now planning a special celebration to mark its anniversary.

The Spokane County fire dispatch center is ironing out the bugs in new software that will allow real time tracking of every fire engine in Spokane County once new digital radios go online. The old soflware would not have been compatible with the new radio system, which forced the upgrade. The tracking could reduce response times in some cases as the system automatically dispatches whoever is closest to a call regardless of where they are based.

The Spokane Valley City Council talked a little trash last week as they discussed an ongoing study to determine the cheapest way to dispose of the city's trash over the next decade. Lisa also has a second story on several projects approved in the West Valley School District, including rehavilitating the track at West Valley High School and buying two new school buses.

County Cuts School Recycling Program

The Kootenai County Board of Commissioners has decided not to renew the county's recycling contracts with the Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Lakeland school districts. The current contracts expire on June 1. The county's Solid Waste Department now subsidizes the school recycling program at an approximate cost of $170,000 per year. Also, the launching of single stream recycling in Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and surrounding areas has dramatically cut the amount of recycling material dropped off at the school sites. Recycling will continued to be offered at Hayden Meadows, Dalton Elementary and Hayden Kindergarten/Kootenai County commissioners news release. More here.

Question: Do you support this move by the county to dump the school recycling program?

Talking trash

There's nothing particularly fascinating about trash, but it's something that has to be dealt with. Reporter John Craig has a story in today's paper about the ongoing dispute between local governments about what happens next for the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System. There are arguments over who will own and operate the Waste to Engergy Plant, who will have a say in the decision making and how much customers will be charged to dispose of waste.

A Solid Waste Summit is scheduled for Feb. 2 and 3. Elected representatives from every jurisdiction in Spokane County are expected to attend, including the Spokane Valley city council members. Spokane Valley could have a key role to play in what happens depending on what the council members decide to do. It doesn't sound like this issue will go away any time soon, so take a look at John's story to learn more about the issue.

Keep trash cans free of snow berms

The City of Spokane Solid Waste Management Department is asking residents for assistance during these snowy days. Residential customers are asked to place their garbage carts and recycling bins in front of snow berms and clear of other obstacles. Commercial customers are asked to remove show from around dumpsters and the access areas for those receptacles.  Sanding icy areas next to dumpsters also would be helpful.
Meanwhile, some customers in the Five Mile area were missed by recycling trucks today, Wednesday, Dec. 1, because these lighter trucks had difficulty maneuvering in the area.  Customers who were missed are asked to place their recycling bins out at the curb again on Thursday, Dec. 2.  A recycling crew will pick up the items then.
“The Solid Waste Department is committed to providing safe and reliable collection to our customers at all times of the year,” says Scott Windsor, the department’s director.  “We apologize for any inconvenience, and we appreciate the help of our customers as we work to get this important job done.”
If you have additional questions about your garbage service or curbside recycling, please call the Solid Waste Department at (509) 625-7878 or visit www.spokanesolidwaste.com.

Via e-mail from the city of Spokane

Help the garbage crews

The City of Spokane Solid Waste Management Department is asking residents for assistance during these snowy days. Residential customers are asked to place their garbage carts and recycling bins in front of snow berms and clear of other obstacles. Commercial customers are asked to remove show from around dumpsters and the access areas for those receptacles.  Sanding icy areas next to dumpsters also would be helpful.
Meanwhile, some customers in the Five Mile area were missed by recycling trucks today, Wednesday, Dec. 1, because these lighter trucks had difficulty maneuvering in the area.  Customers who were missed are asked to place their recycling bins out at the curb again on Thursday, Dec. 2.  A recycling crew will pick up the items then.
“The Solid Waste Department is committed to providing safe and reliable collection to our customers at all times of the year,” says Scott Windsor, the department’s director.  “We apologize for any inconvenience, and we appreciate the help of our customers as we work to get this important job done.”
If you have additional questions about your garbage service or curbside recycling, please call the Solid Waste Department at (509) 625-7878 or visit www.spokanesolidwaste.com.

Via e-mail from the city of Spokane