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Time for solid waste answers

Over the years adequate suspicions have been raised regarding the Del Norte Solid Waste Authority/Joint Powers Agreement regarding its efficiencies, effectiveness, appropriateness and/or accountability.

In life everything has a season. This disruptive saga needs to come to an end for all concerned.

For clarification, the city, one of the partners in the SWA/JPA had no representation in the recent ad hoc committee. I requested to participate on behalf of the city but for whatever reasons I was not appointed so I chose to attend as a private citizen, as did Councilwoman Donna Westfall.

The first problem with the committee was that Martha McClure appointed herself to the ad-hoc committee, while she sits as a member on the Solid Waste Authority Board. For me, this was a  conflict of interest.

I also attended a Tea Party meeting in March where supervisors McClure, Mike Sullivan and Gerry Hemmingsen were participating in a Q&A-like forum.  When McClure was asked repeatedly if the SWA/JPA could be “streamlined,” she responded with an emphatic “No!” while Sullivan and Hemmingsen indicated “Yes!”  Curious that a Triplicate reporter was present, but didn’t report this. What’s that about?

Operational and management questions that continue to be raised in recent times include: antiquated methods of keeping pencil ledger accounting, operating without cash reserves, operating at a continued deficit, annual certification of Transfer Station scales, auditing of local scales versus White City, Ore., scale receipts, what happens when trash is taken out of the trash stream, and is SWA/JPA monitoring annually homeowners’ water-wells adjacent to the closed landfill site, which has apparently been identified as one of the most toxic in the state?

Since when did government agencies start entering into long-term contracts versus three years with additional extensions allowed upon confirmation of review of the operations and management. Then there’s the issue of long-term contracts for transporting the trash, by truck, over Hwy. 199 to White City, Ore. And what assurance do we have that the White City landfill will always be available to us?

Why is the administration of the SWA/JPA costing users 33 percent?  Has the SWA/JPA made continual miscalculations regarding the expected annual trash revenues to be generated, and was this an ongoing trend? Aren’t this year’s trash revenues also down at this point from SWA/JPA again making overly optimistic projections?  Wouldn’t this current downward trend tend to be expected due to the general state of an extremely poor local, regional, state and national economy?

Our neighbors to our north and south have similar trash and cost issues in Brookings, Humboldt, Eureka and neighboring towns.  Why aren’t we thinking of regional solutions regarding trash efficiencies, economies and management?

As for our city trash customers, this past January I requested, as mayor, some SWA/JPA information to better understand the organization and later put the issue on a council agenda for council discussion. My concern and interest for our city trash system users was the cost, efficiencies and economies, and the then-forthcoming trash rate increases of July 1, 2011.

With conversations I’ve had and my general knowledge regarding SWA/JPA, I too believe our trash rates can and should be reduced. This is my interest: lower trash rates for these extraordinary city, county, state and national economic times.

I would hope that this would be the interest of all of my elected colleagues. Collectively, we need to be proactive and have foresight versus being reactive in these issues. Do whatever is required to reduce trash fees, preferably for both the city and county trash customers.

In the meantime, I don’t think we need yet another ad-hoc committee to conduct further inquiries.  The questions are quite simple: Are the citizens properly being represented? What is the benefit to the users to have a Solid Waste Authority? Has the Solid Waste Authority outlived its usefulness?  Should the SWA/JPA perhaps meet quarterly, semi-annually, once a year or not at all because there is a better solution? What are the measurable objectives? What is the credible estimate of benefit?  What is the measure of improved performance? Is a “zero waste stream” being achieved, and is this aspect audited and by whom?

For me it’s about accountability, economies, efficiencies and less bureaucracy. I welcome your unbiased thoughts. As your local elected civic leaders and as a community, we need to move forward, by doing the best thing for our citizens to reduce and control our local trash costs now.

Charles Slert is mayor of Crescent City.

 

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