By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
Fireworks erupted yesterday at a trash meeting when officials faced off over the future of Del Norte County's garbage and about the proper procedures leading up to such decisions.
Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority commissioners became clearly emotional when fellow commissioner, Herb Kolodner, asked them to hold off signing a long-term contract to haul county trash to an Oregon landfill.
The agency has contracted with Hambro Waste Solutions Group to operate the future transfer station. As part of that contract, Hambro was instructed to reach an agreement with Dry Creek Landfill in Oregon to be the final destination for the county's refuse.
Meanwhile, Kolodner has hosted meetings during the last 18 months with private interests and elected officials about the feasibility of a waste-to-energy power plant in Del Norte County. Because such a plant would need a guaranteed amount of trash fuel to operate, Kolodner asked the board to hold off on committing to sending the refuse to Dry Creek.
"You're not going to get a guarantee from this board that it will drag its feet intentionally to attempt to sidestep a 25-year contract in order to make a promise to an unknown company, to unknown players, and to an unknown future," Commissioner Martha McClure told Kolodner about what she termed a "mystery team" that is seeking control of the refuse.
McClure asked Kolodner for clarification on where the request for the trash was coming from.
"If it's government, I want to see it in the government process of the open-meeting laws. If it's not government, I want to see the conflict of representing private enterprise," McClure said.
The participants in Kolodner's meetings have not been fully disclosed to the public as yet, nor has any of the information the group has gathered.
"It is a private enterprise who funds it, permits it, builds it, operates it, and so forth," Kolodner said. "So there's no need for public disclosure, I've been told, because it is (like) a grocery store that wants to come in."
McClure answered that a private enterprise must come before the board and request a contract with the agency in a public forum.
Commissioner Mickey Youngblood, who was in agreement with McClure, said he would still support the waste-to-energy plant if credible information was available.
"If I see the numbers that prove this can work, I don't have a problem designating a disposal site," said Youngblood. "But I haven't seen any numbers that show this is good for the community. I've heard talk, but that's it."
Kolodner answered, saying the numbers Youngblood is seeking are dependent on the outcome of the agency's decision.
"Those are variables that still have to get nailed down," Kolodner said. "And until they're nailed down, to give you numbers that would be false or misleading. I think would be a detriment (and) would be hurtful to our purposes."
Chairman Jack Reese and Commissioner Randy Hatfield said they didn't believe the board should be involved in the discussion at this stage.
"The trash-to-power is a day late and a dollar short," Reese said. "The problem is they should have figured this out a long time ago, before we gave direction to haul our trash to Dry Creek."
Hatfield suggested the waste-to-energy companies should follow the typical public process for getting a project approved rather than circumventing it.
"Do the feasibility on the garbage that's potentially available ... then work toward that," said Hatfield. "Right at this point, you're going the opposite side trying to capture this, because of the fact that this company, whoever it is, doesn't want to do any work unless you have a contract. It's got to be the other way around.
"As I said before, I like the idea, but you've got some flaws in your process," Hatfield said.
There was no motion made on the discussion item and no action was taken.