I applaud the intentions of anyone who wants to come up with ideas to save the city and county money by doing things differently. But dissolving the Solid Waste Management Authority (SWMA) would not be one of those ideas.
There is a long list of reasons to keep it in place, as well as some fears to dispel.
The state of California mandated the closure of the Crescent City landfill because it was not in compliance with environmental regulations. It also mandated that waste be reduced by 50 percent. The SWMA was formed to monitor the old landfill site (to prevent future fines) and build a transfer station.
What do proponents of dissolving the SWMA mean when they say they want to privatize waste? It already has been privatized. Recology does trash collection, Julindra does recycling, and Hambro runs the transfer station.
And since Recology and Hambro had to do a lot of initial capital investment to purchase equipment, they have relatively long-term contracts.
What’s more, the SWMA’s budget is paid for by these three organizations in the form of fees at the transfer station and a franchise fee that the SWMA charges Recology and Julindra. The SWMA is funded by the partners, not by taxpayers.
Rates tend to “jump” because once a new contract is negotiated, the contracted partners have limited power to raise rates, while the cost of doing business continues to rise. So by the time the next contract is negotiated, the partners sometimes need to make market corrections.
Here is a great example of how well the current system is working: Residential customers saw a smaller rate increase for trash pickup than businesses because Recology passed a larger portion of the costs to commercial customers. But then Recology offered cost-saving options to those commercial customers.
When the latest contract started in July 2011, the Del Norte County Unified School District’s monthly bill went from $13,239 to $21,215 per month. Recology gave presentations and advice to enable the schools to get their bill back down to $13,642 per month. Easy things, like ideas to recycle more and generate less waste, both of which enabled the schools to use smaller Dumpsters.
Showing customers how to save money shows how responsible and committed to the community Recology is.
The rates at our transfer station are lower than similar facilities in Curry or Humboldt counties.
Even if the SWMA did not exist, the old landfill site still has to be monitored. And the city and county would still be liable for any violations and fines.
An ad hoc committee appointed by the county supervisors met for 18 months and did not recommend dissolving or privatizing the SWMA. The joint City and County Solid Waste Management Authority Board met all last year and also did not make these recommendations.
Even when scrutinized, the SWMA remains a transparent and viable entity.
It seems obvious that the Solid Waste Authority is not only doing its function, but doing it well. Let’s keep it in place.
Jon Parmentier is a Crescent City resident.