Council decides on waste management contract
9/3/2014 9:55:48 AM
By Craig Howard
In June, Spokane County received word that the city of Spokane Valley would not be on board when a new interlocal agreement for solid waste management took effect this fall.
On Tuesday, it was Liberty Lake that jumped the county ship.
By a unanimous vote, the governing board directed city staff to draw up a contract with Waste Management Inc., a private company that collects refuse from over 20 million customers in the U.S. and Canada. The agreement will also include Airway Heights-based Sunshine Disposal and Recycling on the disposal side.
Spokane County is preparing to take over regional disposal services from the city of Spokane on Nov. 16. The county had offered Liberty Lake a seven-year deal with and early opt-out after three years. Liberty Lake's contract with Waste Management and Sunshine will run for 10 years with an optional six-year add-on if agreed to by both sides. Waste Management has been responsible for garbage collection under the current system.
Kevin Cooke, utilities director for Spokane County, made his case before council on Tuesday, describing how the county program would function as a nonprofit enterprise fund.
"We see it as our duty to keep rates as low as we can," Cooke said.
Waste Management's contract came in at $94.75 a ton compared to the county's offer of $101 per ton. City Administrator Katy Allen emphasized that the numbers did not present an "apples to apples" comparison primarily because the county would manage and administer a comprehensive collection and disposal plan whereas the city will be required to do so under the Waste Management agreement.
"We've tried our best to get the information to you," Allen said. "I don't want to pit one against the other. There are advantages and disadvantages to both."
The weekly fee proposed by Waste Management was $12.99 per household, plus a 3.6 percent tax and the cost of a yearly bulky waste community cleanup event. The county submitted an estimated charge of $13.39.
Sunshine Disposal President Marc Torre chimed in before the council's decision, saying the Waste Management/Sunshine contract represented "a known cost and long-term stability." He also asserted that the competitive bidding process had influenced the county's price. Sunshine is currently in the process of building a new transfer station on University Road in Spokane Valley.
"If we weren't in the discussion, the county rate would be $120 a ton," Torre said.
With Spokane Valley, a city of some 91,000 residents, opting out of a regional solid waste program, Allen expressed concern over the economy of scale involving the county's new system.
"I wonder how the operation can run with small, unincorporated areas and small cities," she said.
In addition to one community-wide bulky waste event each year, the Waste Management proposal includes a $3,000 annual donation to the city "to support community activities." The agreement will also provide free waste management at municipal facilities, a value of $5,500 a year.
Waste Management will forward the city a one-time payment of $15,000 to develop, manage and administer a collection and disposal comprehensive plan. The city will also reap 1 percent of the gross revenue (around $10,000 a year) to facilitate the plan.
Garbage from Liberty Lake will wind up in the Wenatchee Landfill owned by Waste Management. The Columbia Ridge Landfill will serve as a backup site.
In raising the motion to vote for the Waste Management proposal, Mayor Pro Tem Cris Kaminskas said she was wary about Spokane County's lack of experience in the dynamics of disposal.
"They don't have things ironed out yet," Kaminskas said.
As the proprietor of its own waste management plan, the city will also be eligible for certain grant funding that it could not procure as part of an interlocal agreement.
"We appreciate the vote of confidence," said Tami Yager, public sector manager for Waste Management.
Update on Lakemore ground source heat pumps
Maintaining confidence in the city's water supply emerged as the other main topic of conversation on Tuesday night.
Allen described how the city had filed a mitigated determination of non-significance (MDNS) Aug. 29 related to the closed loop ground source heat pump borings being proposed for the Lakemore development. Lakemore is a component of the 100-acre, mixed-use, master-planned development orchestrated by Whitewater Creek Inc. in the eastern part of the city.
The proposal description describes how Whitewater Creek "seeks to provide approximately 700 closed-loop ground source heat pump borings for energy efficient heating and cooling of commercial units, single family residences and multi-family buildings."
The city is recommending eight requirements as part of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review, including a pilot, or test well, constructed under the supervision of a licensed Washington state hydrogeologist.
The city is also asking that Whitewater provide the city and the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District with "as-builts" showing the location of each well before any ground source heat pump is activated. The applicant is also being asked to provide an emergency plan and protocol in any case involving contamination of the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.
In issuing the MDNS, the city reviewed and considered input from the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District, Spokane County Utilities, the Washington State Department of Health, Model Irrigation District, Idaho-Washington Aquifer Collaboration, Department of Ecology, Spokane Aquifer Joint Board and Consolidated Irrigation District.
The MDNS also includes 20 comments from concerned citizens.
"We're getting a lot of questions about the Lakemore ground source heat pumps," said Mayor Steve Peterson.
While the city is designated as the lead agency on the SEPA review, the mayor said it would make sense for LLSWD to inherit that role moving forward.
"The district knows water issues and the aquifer the best," Peterson said.
Feedback on the MDNS will be accepted through Sept. 11. The document can be found on the city's website www.libertylakewa.gov.
LLSWD Commissioner Steve Skipworth told the mayor and council on Tuesday that the district is "the responsible party for wellhead safety" and said LLSWD would be discussing the Lakemore situation in detail at its next meeting at 4 p.m. on Sept. 8.
LLSWD General Manager BiJay Adams said the district has done its due diligence looking into the Lakemore application, including hiring an outside hydrogeologist to evaluate the developer's proposal.
"The district has spent a significant amount of time researching this," Adams said.
Adams said the LLSWD Board of Commissioners would emerge with a decision to either accept or appeal the MDNS or assume lead agency status.
In other city news:
Council voted unanimously to move ahead with the installation of pedestrian crossing enhancements at five crosswalks this year.
Allen provided an update on the newly installed lighting at Pavillion Park. The fixtures now illuminate the parking lot while bollards (ground lighting) have meant improved visibility along the entry walkway.
Brad Reimer, a Spokane Valley resident and cancer survivor, addressed council on the importance of early detection, awareness and treatment of the disease as part of the city's proclamation of September as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
City Council and the Liberty Lake Planning Commission will hold a combined meeting next Wednesday at City Hall to discuss future scenarios related to signage throughout the city. The workshop discussion will begin at 6 p.m.
Jesse Sheldon, a graduate of Central Valley High School and founder of Inland NW Baby, a local diaper and clothing bank, told council of the effort to provide low-income families with free diapers. The city has declared the week of Sept. 8-14 as Diaper Need Awareness Week. Inland NW Baby will hold a diaper drive at the Walgreen's in Liberty Lake on Saturday, Sept. 13.
Dan Pringle, reference librarian at the Liberty Lake Municipal Library, will be leaving his position to work for the city of Spokane.
A field allocation meeting will be held on Friday, Sept. 12 at 4 p.m. at City Hall for groups interested in reserving space at the Liberty Lake Ballfields for 2015.