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Spokane Valley City Council OKs change in Waste Management contract to add road-funding fee

The Spokane Valley City Council approved a change Tuesday to its $13 million garbage collection contract with Waste Management that would add a fee to fund fund road preservation while largely maintaining current service rates.

The 10-year contract was approved last year for Waste Management to provide residential garbage service beginning April 1.

The city approved a 12.5 percent street wear fee collected through several services that would generate $1.5 million in revenue for the city when compared with previous contract rates. The fee would also pay for street preservation – an expense the city is struggling to fund.

“We were hopeful through the competitive process we would see some savings. The total revenue savings was $1.5 million less than what it was prior to the contract,” said Morgan Koudelka, senior administrative analyst for Spokane Valley. “But, we’re trying to find ways to capture revenue without increasing burden among citizens.”

Most residential customers wouldn’t see a change in garbage collection rates with the newly imposed street wear fee; however, about 2,500 customers using their own garbage cans would be required to switch to Waste Management-provided universal cans, and that would add a $1 per month to their bill.

Additionally, 81 commercial customers using detachable containers with multiple pickup times per week would see a slight increase in their rates and customers requesting yard waste pickup would see an increase of nine cents per month.

The city opted for the contract change because if the new rates were stabilized with the included street wear fee now, it would avoid a rate hike later down the road.

Former Spokane Valley councilman Ed Pace asked the council to vote against the street wear fee.

“I’d rather see the garbage collection contractor have the ability to pass that savings along to me – the customer – or the city pass the savings along some other way,” he said, adding that he believes in maintaining the current condition of city streets. “I know we need money for pavement preservation and road maintenance, but as I’ve said before, I’d like to see that happen through spending cuts.”

Councilman Arne Woodard said there isn’t money left in the city budget to allocate toward future road preservation, and that’s why he voted to change the contract.

It’s one way the city can reduce financial impact on citizens, Woodard said, because otherwise they will pay for road preservation out of their own pockets or there will be a need to collect more money through some other type of tax or fee.

“It doesn’t cost our garbage rate holders – with the rare exception of a few people that don’t have a can or the 80 others that were mentioned – any more money than they are paying right now. Maybe less even and we get to put a million toward our residential roads which we can’t pay for as a city,” he said. “I’m voting for it. It’s just common sense.”

The street wear fee would be required per contract to be used exclusively for street repairs and preservation.

Councilwoman Brandi Peetz said the contract change is a complex issue she’s discussed with citizens, but would have liked more time to go over the contract information.

“I’d just hope once this decision is made, that (the funds) would continue to go to (road preservation) and that people wouldn’t come back and say, ‘Oh, lets allocate this somewhere else.’ Roads are very important,” she said. “It’s something we obviously are going to have to look into whether we vote for it or not. It’s a very hard decision to make, and I just want people to understand that we are trying to get as much input as possible. And I personally would have liked more time to have some more conversations.”

City Manager Mark Calhoun said the street funds will go toward roads, and there isn’t staff intent to use the funds elsewhere.

“We’re very excited at the prospect of being able to apply this money toward the roads,” he said. But, you can bet the auditors will be keeping us honest.”

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