Following the recommendation of an independent consultant’s assessment, the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority Board held a special meeting last week to debate the future direction of the embattled public agency that handles all local trash and recycling issues.
First up on the list of pressing issues was what to do about the top two staff positions at the authority: program manager and executive director.
Since former director Kevin Hendrick’s forced retirement by the Board last summer, authority program manager Tedd Ward has performed the duties of both of those positions, leading some authority commissioners to believe the combined position should be the new normal.
The report from R3 Consulting Group, which was paid more than $30,000 to evaluate the agency, states “it is clear that it is not necessary to staff both the Executive Director and Program Manager positions to effectively administer the current responsibilities of the Authority.”
Four of the five commissioners stated their support for combining this position as well as turning it into a contract position for the private sector.
Crescent City Councilman Rick Holley was the only authority commissioner who did not voice support for having the positions combined. He said that his interpretation of R3’s report is that in order to combine positions, monitoring and management of the environmental mess that is the closed Crescent City Landfill would have to be delegated to Del Norte County government and that educational aspects would be handled by the authority’s vendors, Recology Del Norte and Hambro Waste Solutions Group.
“There’s a lot of work to be done to accomplish that, and it’s going to come with some kind of cost, and that needs to be evaluated before we move forward with a combined position,” Holley said.
Ward told the Triplicate that fulfilling both roles has been “a challenge,” preventing him from having enough time to give the appropriate amount of attention to certain tasks.
Crescent City Councilwoman Kathryn Murray told the Board during public comment that having combined positions for the past year has “clearly been quite a burden on your staff” and the position should not be contracted out.
“We should keep our executive director and program manager separate so we have sufficient staffing to do the job that we need to do here and keep our recycling, which is such an extremely important program here in Del Norte County,” Murray said.
The importance of recycling and other progressive programs in the field of solid waste and recycling was the next pressing issue begging the Board’s opinion.
Del Norte County Supervisor and authority Commissioner Mike Sullivan said that he would like to see the authority as “more of a utility than a social change agent.” The utility sentiment was echoed by authority commissioners Rich Enea, Roger Gitlin and Mary Wilson.
Murray said that more and more people in Del Norte County are taking advantage of the recycling opportunities available to residents, “using less and less garbage, which is good for our landfills and good for our planet,” she said.
“The commercial recycling cost is astronomical because we all (residential customers) get free recycling as part of our contract,” Sullivan said. “I agree with recycling. I do it myself, but if it’s that important to the community and that big of a priority, we should all pay; we should all share the costs of it.”
Gitlin and Wilson also hoped that a long-term goal of the authority would be to lower costs for the business community, which saw a higher increase in rates when new franchise contract rates started three years ago.
Save for Holley, the authority commissioners said that the agency should refrain from pursuing new projects or programs.
Holley questioned Sullivan’s characterization of the agency as trying to act as a social change agent and said that the authority shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to offer new programs that fulfill a social responsibility and are funded by grants.
Holley said that any sort of strategic future planning for the Solid Waste Authority should start with the annual work plan, which the authority already produces annually and includes goals and planning.
“When I look at the work plan myself for the annual goals we have established, most of those are utility,” Holley said. “I don’t see a lot of social kinds of activities on that work plan; they are tangible activities.”
One example of a cutting-edge program that the Del Norte Solid Waste Authority has pursued is a program that offers a 60-percent reduced rate for carpet disposal available to residential and commercial customers alike, due to a state law that requires carpet producers to cover part of the cost of carpet disposal.
The program is not yet available for most rural counties, but it’s available here since the Del Norte Solid Waste Authority lobbied to become the pilot program for rural counties.
The program, which is used on a daily basis, recycled 25.35 tons of carpet in 2013. Owners of Wild Rivers Carpet One Floor and Home, based in Brookings, said it is far more preferable to use the Del Norte Transfer Station for their business than the facilities in Curry County.