Most of the 30-some people who spoke during a public comment period about the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority this week praised it and said privatization of the agency would be inappropriate.
Public input is being sought by a private consultant who is assessing the agency on several factors, only two of which have anything to do with possible privatization.
Nonetheless, to privatize or not to privatize was the question on the audience's mind.
"Private companies are fine. They have their place. They make our economy boom in many ways, but their job is to make money," said Angela Glore. "The portion of our Solid Waste Authority that manages our closed landfill and monitors it and makes sure that it is still safe is not a money-making venture. It should not be entrusted to a money-making private company."
Other supporters of keeping the authority a public entity mentioned their appreciation for allowing a wide variety of recyclables, extended producer responsibility programs (for example, battery manufacturers must help with disposal) and affordable transfer station rates that attract people to haul their own trash from neighboring counties.
Norma Williams, president of the Del Norte County Employees Association, said that anything that jeopardizes the livelihood of the union employees of the Solid Waste Authority could be in violation of state law.
Ralph Dickey said that if the transfer station was privatized the employees could remain as county employees and be contracted out to a private company.
A handful of people spoke in favor of some structural changes of the Solid Waste Authority.
Andy Larson said that there will still be government oversight over landfill management and trash collection in the county even if there is privatization occurs.
"The government will be involved with that dump. It can never be fully privatized," Larson said. He also countered speakers who highlighted the importance of the authority's non-profit status for receiving grants by pointing out that those grants could go to the county instead.
Ron Plechaty said he believes efficiency and lower rates would be achieved through privatization.
"Even though you have a union contract - that could be negated in order to accomplish the ultimate goal, which is to keep the tipping costs below the rate of inflation so people can afford to take their trash to the dump instead of dumping it out into the forest or Pacific Shores and other places that are inappropriate," Plechaty said, adding that all current services should be duplicated if privatized.
Lathrop Leonard questioned all of the time and hours spent scrutinizing the authority.
"How many man-hours and dollars have we spent not only scrutinizing what the Solid Waste Authority has been up to so far, but also how man-hours and tax dollars has the Solid Waste Authority had to spend to respond to this scrutiny and how might thosetax dollars and man-hours be better used within the community?" Leonard asked.
Paul Dillard said the scrutiny came about because (Authority Board members) were getting $375 a month for an hour's worth of work."
Dillard said the authority's operation was not the problem, but the board. He believes that direction and management should come from elsewhere.
R3 Consulting Group's assessment report is expected to be drafted in March and completed by early April.
Reach Adam Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org.