Our View: City solid waste move bodes well

By Triplicate Staff October 24, 2011 08:50 pm

Kudos to City Manager Eugene Palazzo for coming up with a good suggestion and to Crescent City Council members for approving it.

If county supervisors go along with it as well, any upcoming analysis of solid waste issues will likely occur where it should — in the open.

That wasn’t the case with an ad hoc committee on solid waste appointed by supervisors two years ago, and it might not have been the case with a new ad hoc committee that supervisors recently proposed.

For the most part, Del Norte’s solid waste issues have played out in the open, with opportunity for public comment every step of the way. That included the process of awarding a garbage and recycling collection contract, which was highly competitive. And it included the recent collection price increases that have some people upset now that they’ve seen their bills.

Palazzo’s proposal calls for the current Solid Waste Authority Board to be replaced, at least temporarily, by a bigger board consisting of all five supervisors and all five City Council members.

That sounds good to us. Our top elected officials can openly assess the operation of the Solid Waste Authority, which oversees the private companies that pick up and haul away our garbage, as well as the maintenance of a closed but still environmentally sensitive local landfill.

The Palazzo proposal approved by the Council also calls for an end to monthly stipends for Authority Board members. Again, a good idea. People serving on the current five-member board are paid $375 a month if they attend a meeting, $300 a month even if they don’t. Since four out of the five are already members of the City Council or Board of Supervisors, the stipend has always smacked of double-dipping.

The plan could get the go-ahead as soon as Tuesday night during a joint meeting of city and county leaders.

Don’t assume the garbage and recycling rate increases are going to get rolled back as a result of all this. The collection rates were announced in April and they took effect in July under a new 15-year contract the Authority Board awarded to Recology Del Norte.

Just how binding the contract is when it comes to collection rates has not been legally tested — and at this point it’s not clear that it should be tested.

The rates have gone up, but so have services. As a result, statistics show that Del Norte residents and businesses are doing a lot more recycling — good for the environment and the pocketbook. Before customers complain too loudly about rate increases, they should analyze the new recycling options available to them that might mitigate those increases.

Here’s to a publically transparent review of all the solid waste issues at hand. Under the new contract, the authority has the right to inspect Recology Del Norte’s “income tax returns, payroll tax reports, route maps, customer lists,” etc.

How do the new collection rates compare with those charged for similar services elsewhere? Is Hambro efficient in its operation of the transfer station and its hauling of collected garbage to Oregon? Are we getting a square deal with Julindra, which receives and sorts all of the county’s recyclables? Is the authority staff efficiently discharging its oversight duties?

The Triplicate will do its part in answering those questions, and it looks forward to elected officials doing the same.

All out in the open.

— Del Norte Triplicate