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Our View: Here we go again

There’s a new effort afoot to get rid of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority, and there are a couple of important points to consider at the outset.

The first is that at least two county supervisors, Mike Sullivan and Gerry Hemmingsen, are clearly determined to dissolve the authority if they can. After all, they appointed an ad hoc committee in 2009 to study the possibility of doing just that. But the committee completed its work without recommending dissolution, so now Sullivan and Hemmingsen are looking to form a new ad hoc committee in hopes of a different result.

Sullivan was being disingenuous when he said this week: “The first ad hoc was to evaluate the authority and this second one will be to make some changes.”

The fact is, both Hemmingsen and Sullivan clearly stated in 2009 that they wanted the first ad hoc committee to consider dissolving the authority.

Said Sullivan at the time: “We’re really going to have to go through the numbers, and if there’s a potential cost savings without a lapse in service then we’ll have to consider it (dissolution).”

Said Hemmingsen at the time: “Can the community be better served by not having the cost of this bureaucracy? Or, is it a necessary thing?”

So let’s not pretend that the first ad hoc committee wasn’t formed to consider dissolution. The majority of its members simply didn’t reach the conclusion that the two supervisors wanted, and now they hope a new committee will be more agreeable.

The second issue to consider at the outset is the question of stipends paid to Solid Waste Authority Board members: $375 a month if they attend a meeting, $300 a month even if they don’t. The Authority Board includes appointed members from the Board of Supervisors and the City Council. When Sullivan served on it, he suggested the stipends be reduced to $75 a month, but no one ever seconded his motion.

Sullivan is no longer on the Authority Board, but when the authority wrote a formal reply to the report of the first ad hoc committee, it noted Sullivan had never turned down his authority stipends, totaling $9,000.

We find the implication that Sullivan was hypocritical for taking stipends he spoke out against to be poppycock. He says he donated the money to charity. Regardless, a public official trying to save the public some money shouldn’t be expected to turn down his portion of that money if he’s unsuccessful in his efforts to change the rules.

So two supervisors are dead-set on dissolving the authority, which in turn is critical of one of those supervisors for taking his portion of stipends that he opposed in principle. Those are the givens. We’d be well-served to get beyond them and focus on the big picture.

The authority currently oversees solid waste issues in the county. It oversees a private company (Recology Del Norte) that provides garbage and recycling pickup services. It oversees another private company (Hambro) that operates the transfer station and the hauling of the county’s garbage to an Oregon landfill. And it monitors a closed Crescent City landfill that still has environmental issues that the state wants addressed.

Could these responsibilities be handled more effectively and efficiently without the authority? If we’re going to again ponder that question, we need to set aside personality conflicts and just deal with the facts.

Of course, you could argue that the first ad hoc committee already did that.

— The Daily Triplicate


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