The board of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority, which handles all recycling and garbage issues in the county, seems intent on scaling back the agency to something without “all the bells and whistles,” as commissioner Roger Gitlin put it.
The authority board will be discussing the future direction and goals of the agency during its regular monthly meeting at 3:30 p.m Wednesday in the Flynn Center, 981 H Street, Crescent City.
During a June 24 special meeting, four of the agency’s five commissioners voiced their support for combining the authority’s top two administrative positions into one combined contract position for the private sector and scaling back the agency from pursuing new programs.
Tedd Ward has been fulfilling both of the responsibilities of the authority’s executive director and program manager since former director Kevin Hendrick was forced into retirement by the board last summer.
Four of the five commissioners (commissioner Rick Holley took a different stance) said that the authority should be scaled back and not take on new projects.
Commissioner Mike Sullivan said he believes the authority should be “more of a utility than a social change agent,” a nod to the leading role that the waste authority has had statewide and nationally in designing programs to reduce waste.
Del Norte was one of the first rural counties in California to develop a carpet disposal program that allows commercial and residential consumers to dispose of carpet at a cost 60 percent lower than standard tipping fees. The program stemmed from a state law that requires carpet producers to cover part of the cost of carpet disposal, but it was available to the public and businesses early in Del Norte due to pursuit of the new program.
The authority was the first county in the United States to develop a Zero Waste Plan to guide its solid waste strategy, which Hendrick described as a financial decision motivated by the high cost of transporting garbage to an Oregon landfill after the close of the Crescent City Landfill in 2005.
“We seem to have this status right now like we have all the bells and whistles like we are Sonoma County, and we are not,” commissioner Gitlin said.
During the special meeting, authority commissioners also discussed whether it would be appropriate to ask what tasks Recology Del Norte, which has the franchise contract for garbage and recycling collection, and Hambro Waste Solutions Group, which has the franchise contract for operation of the transfer station, would be willing to take over from the authority.
Wes White, CEO of Hambro WSG, said that his company might be able to speak to whether or not they could generate reports for state regulators in place of authority staff, but for the most part, he reserved input “because of the politically sensitive nature of the situation,” White said.
“We have our own beliefs, but that needs to be kept private because we are a vendor to the authority,” White said.
Elizabeth Henry, a former Mendocino County Supervisor who also served on that county’s solid waste agency board, questioned why the commissioners thought outsourcing some tasks, like education, would save the agency money.
“Sure, Recology does education, but they educate on what they do. They are not going to add things and do things because they are nice guys; they are going to send you a bill,” Henry said.