Coastal Voices: Do this in the open

By Martha McClure September 23, 2011 05:16 pm

Last week, the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors voted to form a new ad hoc committee to “restructure or dissolve the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority.”

I am concerned that the public did not get enough notice of this action before the vote was taken, so I have requested that this vote be rescheduled at our next meeting on Tuesday. This will give appropriate notice to the public and provide an opportunity for people to speak for or against this action before the vote is taken.

At the meeting last week I expressed my concern that the agenda for the meeting did not allow for the specific motion to form this new committee. The agenda simply stated,  #19. Receive, review and take possible action on the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority response to the Solid Waste Ad Hoc Committee report.

There was considerable discussion about the response submitted by the Solid Waste Authority, then the discussion abruptly changed when Supervisor Sullivan made a motion to form yet another ad hoc committee focused on possibly dissolving the Solid Waste Authority. I was surprised by the suggestion and questioned whether the motion exceeded the posted agenda’s intent.

The phrase “possible action” was merely intended to act as the vehicle for accepting or rejecting the response from the Solid Waste Authority. My concern is that this action taken was not duly noticed and any reasonable person could not have predicted the action of the board. Therefore I have requested the that the action to “restructure or dissolve,” be properly placed on the next agenda in order to, “inform interested members of the public about the subject matter under consideration so they may determine whether to monitor or participate in the meeting,” (CA Brown ACT, chapter IV,sec1a).

I was a member of the last County ad hoc committee that was asked to study whether the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority is still justified. After more than two years, the final report stated that the majority of the committee felt there were no changes needed and no committee members suggested that this agency should be dissolved.

We do not need another committee. As a commissioner on the Board of the Solid Waste Authority, I can report that most of the concerns expressed by the county have been addressed and we are working on making further improvements. There is no need for the drastic measures that are being proposed.

The Solid Waste Authority, which efficiently operates the Del Norte County Transfer Station seven days a week and oversees the collection of garbage and recycling, is a government agency that pays for itself, without any federal, state or local tax revenue. All expenses, including the cost of monitoring and maintaining the closed county landfill, are paid entirely from fees collected from providing a valuable public service.

Most of our customers are happy with the service that the Solid Waste Authority provides, but at no time during that last ad hoc committee did we ask our constituents what they think. If another ad hoc committee is formed, these discussions will be able to retreat behind closed doors and the public will be excluded.

Now is the time to speak up. The Solid Waste Authority has found a good balance of public/private partnerships. More than 80 percent of all the revenue from trash collection and disposal at the transfer station goes to private businesses. We should not pursue complete privatization and give up control of an essential part of our community infrastructure.

We should have continued discussions in public meetings about how we can improve, but general statements like, “It’s too expensive”€or “It could be cheaper if it is private”€are not useful. If anyone has specific concerns or suggestions for improvement, bring them forward. However we should not rashly move to change a system that is generally working for all of us.

I want to hear what the people of this county have to say and I invite any interested person to attend the next Board of Supervisors meeting beginning at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

If you have any questions please call me at 464-7204.

Martha McClure is the Del Norte County supervisor for the 2nd District.