A 25-year contract between the city and county for disposal of solid waste will end next month, and Spokane County will take the reins operating two disposal sites in Spokane Valley and Colbert.
County officials have written a new ordinance to govern the transition and will be accepting the public’s comment on the draft law next month. The biggest changes will be in operating times at the two locations, slightly lower fees for disposal and greater fines for dumping violations.
Extra fees will not be charged for residents of Spokane Valley, Cheney, Liberty Lake and other communities that have opted not to remain members of the regional solid waste system under county leadership, said Kevin Cooke, Spokane County utilities director.
“The county welcomes all county residents to the transfer stations, at the same rates,” Cooke said.
This includes the estimated 37 percent of Spokane Valley residents who choose to haul their own garbage to disposal sites. Spokane Valley has contracted with private firm Sunshine Disposal & Recycling to handle their hauling, while Cheney will exclusively use the Waste-to-Energy plant on Geiger Boulevard that will continue to operate under Spokane city leadership. In September, Liberty Lake elected to contract with Waste Management of Washington Inc. to haul its trash, while Millwood and Airway Heights opted to join the county-led system.
Customers will see a slight reduction in fees beginning Jan. 1, Cooke said. The county will charge a minimum $15 fee for disposal of waste up to 300 pounds, down from the $15.23 the city currently charges. However, the county is discussing charging customers a 43-cent convenience fee for use of debit or credit cards, which the city chose to pay itself during its operation of the transfer stations. County officials have questioned whether their payment of the convenience fee would amount to “gifting,” prohibited by state law.
Dumping a ton of waste at the disposal sites will cost $101 on Jan. 1, down from $104.59 under city operation, Cooke said.
Hours of operation at the two county-led disposal sites will change Nov. 17, when the new regional contract begins. The locations will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. per the terms of a labor contract with county employees – a shorter window than the current 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours at the stations. They will remain open seven days a week, Cooke said.
The changes to operating hours were made based on when customers dropped waste at the sites, Cooke said. The county will also change the times the stations accept hazardous household waste, including corrosive or poisonous substances, to weekends only. The substances are currently collected seven days a week.
The new law will also add civil fines to those who violate the dumping laws, totaling $50 for residential offenders and $500 for commercial offenders. This includes unauthorized dumping outside the county and violating environmental standards for waste disposal. Offenders can also be charged criminally with a misdemeanor, which includes a penalty of up to 364 days in jail.
Cooke said the county adopted its plan based upon a model by Snohomish County. The idea is to give the law some teeth, he said.
“There’s a large fixed cost of operating a large solid waste system that is spread over the tonnage” of waste, Cooke said. “Loss of tonnage from the system results in higher fees.”
The new law will take effect Nov. 17. A public hearing will be held Nov. 4 at the Spokane County Public Works Building following the regularly scheduled county commissioners’ legislative meeting.
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