Waste Authority hires consultant to study issues

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate December 16, 2013 06:15 pm

After several years of continued scrutiny over the necessity and functions of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority, the authority’s board approved spending $33,460 on a consulting contract to study the issues of contention and put them to rest.

The contract was awarded to R3 Consulting Group, a solid waste management consulting firm established in 2002 that exclusively works for municipal agencies responsible for solid waste management, according to the company’s proposal.

In order to save costs on the contract, the authority board removed two tasks from the proposal: analysis of cash control procedures (removed because the county auditor, county treasurer and an external auditor are already addressing this) and assessment of the Gasquet and Klamath transfer stations (removed because this can be done by authority staff).

The most contentious tasks that will be assessed by the consultant are related to the organizational structure of the Joint Powers Authority, the governmental structure created by Crescent City and Del Norte County that empowers the Solid Waste Authority.

R3 will evaluate and make recommendations regarding the structure of the JPA and compare it with other governmental solid waste agencies in the state.

R3 will also look at alternatives to the JPA, such as privatization of some or all functions of the Solid Waste Authority, and what that would look like.

Authority board members debated whether it would be wise to table the choosing of a consultant until the board meeting in January, expressing some sticker shock to the consultant’s proposal’s, which ranged from $40,000 to $62,000.  

Board member Rick Holley made the motion to accept R3’s proposal during Wednesday’s meeting.

“I am uninterested in seeing this go on and on and on year after year. It’s time we have a professional come in and first evaluate the JPA as it sits,” Holley said, adding that before seeing if an alternative is preferable, the consultant should “see if things are broken.”

“This is the future of solid waste management, possibly, in this community, and I think we have to spend the dollars to get the answers we need,” Holley said.

Holley’s motion to accept the contract was approved with a 3-2 vote, with board members Rich Enea and Mary Wilson dissenting.

During public comment, some folks criticized the authority board for what they viewed to be a pre-determined motive to dissolve the authority in issuing the request for proposal.

“Maybe it’s time to dissolve the authority, I guess you were thinking,” said Craig Strong during public comment. “Now that the authority has closed and maintained monitoring the old landfill, created a transfer station that is a model of efficiency, negotiated fair progressive contracts with three private companies for pickup, hauling and landfilling of our trash and exceeded state waste-reduction requirements to the point where we are receiving awards for our outstanding work — yes, maybe now the authority should be eliminated.”

Board member Roger Gitlin said he is not intent on dissolving the authority if the consultant recommends otherwise.

“I’m driven by really only one thing: how can we save the ratepayers money and how can we continue to maintain the high quality of service that we all currently enjoy,” Gitlin said.

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