Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

Gitlin's claim of exorbitant rates is challenged

Another committee has been formed to consider the future of the public agency that oversees trash and recycling issues in Del Norte County, and this one will apparently meet just once.

Amid a continued discussion about some public officials' desire to dissolve or privatize the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority and proposals to hire a consultant to study possible alternatives for the agency, the Authority Board decided on Tuesday to plan a super-meeting.

The board unanimously voted to have a one-time meeting with all parties represented in the same room, including: one Authority Board member apiece from the city and county, the authority director, the authority program manager, authority legal counsel, the city manager, the county administrative officer, a representative of the Solid Waste Task Force, and representatives from Hambro/ Waste Solutions Group and Recology Del Norte.

Referring to the majority of public comments made recently at a joint city/county meeting during a solid waste discussion, Authority Board members and City Councilman Rick Holley said at Tuesday's meeting, "One of the underlying themes was that if it's not broken, don't fix it ... I'm wondering if we've clearly defined what it is that we're trying to fix. This is a major step either to hire a consultant to answer myriad questions or to dissolve the JPA (joint powers authority). The question I have is why?"

Holley said that the consultant would likely cost $50,000andndash;$60,000, and he suggested a management audit instead.

Authority Board member and county Supervisor Roger Gitlin responded to Holley, saying that "I am of the opinion that costs are inexorably high on this level of bureaucracy" and that the critical question is: "How can we save the consumer some money?"

Gitlin said he has received "factual information" that leads him to believe that rates could be reducedby 20 percent under an alternative structure. In emails to the Triplicate and in public meetings, Gitlin has alluded to receiving this figure from representatives of Hambro and Recology Del Norte.

"We have experts here. I'm not just pulling these figures out of the blue sky here," Gitlin said. Later in the meeting, Gitlin asked executives of Recology Del Norte and Hambro/WSG, Tommy Sparrow and Wes White, who were in the audience, to attest to these numbers, but they remained quiet.

Gitlin has recently compared the Del Norte County Transfer Station rates with those of Curry Transfer and Recycling, drawing scrutiny Tuesday from a former Mendocino County supervisor andSolid Waste Authority board member.

Elizabeth Henry said she had seen Gitlin discuss rates on KIEM-TV News Channel 3.

"The example you gave was Curry County stating that they only charge $90 and that would catch most people's attention. It sure did mine," Henry said, after noting that the Del Norte's transfer station rate is $140 per ton.

But she said Gitlin was comparing apples to oranges: charges per ton with charges per cubic yard.

Although Curry Transfer and Recycling does not have a scale for public customers, the transfer station charges based on whether or not the load "looks" light or heavy, according to a receptionist there. A light load is $24.90 per cubic yard and a heavy load is $37.35 per cubic yard.

Based on industry averages of residential (light) garbage and construction debris (heavy) garbage, Curry rates would be $226 per ton for light loads and $166 per ton for heavy loads, a Del Norte authority representative said Friday.

Andrea Wadsworth, president of the union representing Solid Waste Authority employees, invited Gitlin to visit the transfer station, be a greeter and "talk to the people."

"Maybe you need to check with the residents of Oregon and find out why they come to Del Norte County transfer station day in and day out," Wadsworth said. "You need to quit all these meetings to why you're going to close us down and privatize us; why you're going to take our jobs from us. You know that's stress on us when we work for a paycheck. It's mentally draining. Five years of ad hoc committeeing? It's ridiculous on me as an employee."

Reach Adam Spencer