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City moves closer to waste agreement
6/4/2014 8:29:33 PM

By Craig Howard
Splash Contributor

Some light has finally peeked through in the murky debate over the future of solid waste management in Spokane County. 

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, City Administrator Katy Allen provided the governing board with an update on continuing discussions with Spokane County over the future of local garbage disposal. The update included an eye toward a pivotal decision made by a jurisdiction to the west that could have wide-ranging impact on the direction taken by Liberty Lake -- as well as the entire solid waste debate. 

Allen was in attendance at the Spokane Valley City Council earlier in the evening, where a unanimous vote took place to secure a solid waste contract with Spokane-based Sunshine Disposal. The agreement represents a seismic shift in a regional terrain that has traditionally seen cities and towns tethered to public entities for waste management services.

"Now that the city of Spokane Valley is going with Sunshine Disposal, I'm not sure how it's going to affect the county's price," Allen told council during her presentation.

Spokane County had originally offered a price of $104.59 a ton to municipalities as part of a new interlocal agreement. With the county taking over solid waste management facilitation from the city of Spokane this November, Liberty Lake and other jurisdictions have been researching a slew of options both public and private that would represent the best combination of price and service in moving forward.

With Sunshine now very much in the mix, the county's proposed price dipped to $99.70 per ton and even lower to $94.30 on the night of Spokane Valley's vote. Allen said the county has given Spokane Valley a three-week extension of its original deadline for an interlocal agreement, but the vote in support of Sunshine on Tuesday appears to have thrown a wrench into a potential deal with the county.

Sunshine's offer of $92 a ton would increase slightly to $98.15 after implementation of a landfill tax and municipal administration and education costs. 

Allen said an agreement with Sunshine would entail transportation and disposal services, not collection. That aspect is currently handled by Waste Management, another private company. Allen noted that the city could look at signing a contract with Waste Management as part of the arrangement. The company currently collects garbage in Liberty Lake based on a state-issued certificate that has been in place before incorporation.

Allen said the city has narrowed the discussion down to two options moving ahead on an interlocal agreement with the county or securing a contract with Sunshine Disposal and Waste Management. She said a deadline of July 1 has been set in order for the city "to have enough time to make the transition."

Earlier this year, Liberty Lake joined Airway Heights, Deer Park and Millwood in issuing a collaborative request for proposals to private companies specializing in waste disposal. Last week, the city of Airway Heights became the first jurisdiction in Spokane County to vote in favor of a contract with Sunshine Disposal.

Council Member Odin Langford expressed concern on Tuesday with the county's fluctuating prices as well as the impact of Spokane Valley opting to sign with Sunshine Disposal.

"The county has been all over the board," Langford said. "And now, with Spokane Valley out, the county's tonnage rate will go down and the price will go up."

Mayor Pro Tem Cris Kaminskas said she would be more likely to support an agreement with a private company like Sunshine "that knows what's going on."

"That's their expertise," Kaminskas said. "With the county, we don't know what their operational costs are going to be."

Allen said there was a possibility of the council holding a special meeting in order to meet the July 1 deadline. 

"This is still a work in progress," she said.

In other city news:

 Police Chief Brian Asmus presented his department's annual report, noting that each LLPD officer exceeded the required 30 hours of training in 2013. Asmus said the crime rate in Liberty Lake is 70 percent lower than the average throughout Washington state, while the violent crime rate is 95 percent lower. Property crimes in the city are 60 percent lower than the statewide average. Liberty Lake was ranked as the eighth safest city in Washington last year. Asmus said the department continues to raise awareness about domestic violence, hosting the third annual symposium on the subject last year and utilizing a program that provides an inventory of resources to domestic violence survivors. Domestic violence assaults in the city have dropped from 50 in 2011 to 26 last year. Asmus noted that adult arrests were up from 315 in 2012 to 442 last year. He said the increase is related to LLPD's proactive approach to issues like impaired driving.

 Walt Edelen, water resources program manager with the Spokane Conservation District, gave a brief presentation to council on Tuesday, highlighting the district's program that addresses septic tanks. The agency offers loans and grants to residents to replace septic tanks and connect to the sewer system. Help is also available to replace or repair septic tanks.

 Council unanimously approved a six-year Transportation Improvement Program that will address capital projects and preservation from 2015 to 2020. A total of $19.2 million has been set aside for capital work during that time, including just over $2 million for improvements along the Appleway corridor next year. The city has earmarked $2.9 million for road preservation over the next six years.

 The dedication of the Reading Garden at the Liberty Lake Library will take place Sunday, June 15, at 3 p.m.

 Council unanimously approved an agreement with Studio Cascade Inc. to begin work on a review of the city's signage policy. The company's fee of $24,465 will be covered through an increase in revenue from municipal permitting charges.

 A temporary fence will be installed around the Liberty Lake Ball Fields during construction to protect growing turf on the diamonds. 

 Council approved a collaborative subscription agreement with Minapsys for survey work related to city projects.

 A total of seven candidates have emerged for the council position once occupied by Lori Olander. A special meeting will be held next Tuesday, June 10 at 7 p.m. to interview the applicants and announce a decision on the appointment. The list of council hopefuls includes Debbi Haskins, Charles Matthews, Robert Moore, Jennifer Ophardt, Kenneth Thompson, Donald Walker and Julie Anne Young.

 Council approved a preliminary plat in the River District during a closed record hearing. The project which includes 36 lots and a land tract within the city's burgeoning northside development received previous approval with conditions by the county hearing examiner. 

 The annual City Council retreat is scheduled for Aug. 19. This year's list of topics will include establishing priorities for 2015, plans for the Trailhead at Liberty Lake facility and a discussion of licensing for mobile food trucks that operate within city limits. 


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