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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Valley pursuing trash plan

Spokane Valley city leaders are open to joining the countywide garbage system but want to continue pushing forward with development of their own state-mandated plan so they can compare which is the better deal for residents.

“I think the only prudent course for the city of Spokane Valley is to develop a solid waste plan and pursue it if we need it,” said Mayor Dean Grafos.

Among the concerns is that Spokane County, which is taking over the regional garbage system this fall, has given estimates but is unable to tell cities specifically how much it will cost to dispose of trash. Cities have been told those figures, known as tipping fees, should be available by June.

City council members said Tuesday night they want to work with the county as partners in a regional system but said they’re unwilling to sign any agreement that fails to specify costs or at least commit to a fee cap. They also want assurances that the county is committed to the lowest-cost options, which earlier studies have suggested would involve bypassing the city of Spokane’s costly trash incinerator and shipping garbage to a massive landfill in Central Washington.

Garbage collection is one of those pocket-book issues that affect everyone. The regional solid waste system is a major factor in determining how much residents pay for curbside collection, yard waste disposal or self-haul trips to the transfer or drop-off stations. It also affects how much commercial customers pay for dumpster service.

City officials want to see if private enterprise can deliver the required services for less.

But time is running out.

Municipal governments are required by state law to have an approved plan for disposing of garbage collected from their communities and tending to other mandated solid waste issues. Cities typically sign on to approved regional plans, which is what Spokane Valley has done in the past. But with Spokane County taking over the regional system from the city of Spokane in November, the system is changing and cities must declare their intent.

Cheney also has signaled it may develop its own plan.

Currently, the only city in Washington that is operating its own state-approved solid waste system is Seattle, according to state officials.

City Manager Mike Jackson advised council members that it would be too late to develop their own plan if they waited until summer when Spokane County expects to have more complete cost information available.

Jackson noted that the city has been working with consultants on the possibility of developing a solid waste plan and has been investigating potential private-sector partnerships.

“I can’t tell you we’ll have a lower-cost option” with a public-private partnership, he said. “But it does keep our options open.”

Jackson suggested, and council members agreed, that city staff should continue progress on development of a solid waste plan but also working with the county to address concerns in the agreement.