With no solid numbers on what a Spokane County-controlled solid waste system will cost, Spokane Valley city officials indicated Tuesday they are prepared to develop their own plan just in case.
The question, however, is whether or not the city would be ready to implement any such plan by November when the existing interlocal agreement between Spokane County and the city of Spokane – which owns the West Plains Waste-to-Energy Plant – comes to an end.
“I don’t know if we have time to develop an alternative,” said City Manager Mike Jackson. “It could be (developing our own plan) will be for naught.”
Still, City Council members were united in their belief that Spokane Valley citizens want them to pursue any and all alternatives to guarantee continued garbage service – which would include curbside pickup along with the option for citizens to haul away their own trash -- at the best price. Developing its own plan, while at the same time working with the county to work out an agreement, would give the city a chance to explore other potential partnerships with other public or private entities.
“I think we would be derelict in our duties if we didn’t have our options open,” said Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard.
Spokane County commissioners last month worked out an agreement with the city of Spokane to take over control of the solid-waste system, along with the Valley and Colbert transfer stations, for $9.9 million. The city of Spokane will retain ownership of the burn plan and will require the county to send garbage it collects there for the next three years while the transfer stations are paid off. During that time, the county can explore other options for disposing solid waste, including hauling it out of the region via rail.
Spokane Valley council members said Tuesday they would be willing to partner with the county if dumping fees at the plant could be kept in the ballpark of $102 per ton, which is what operators of garbage trucks pay when they dump at the plant.
Council Member Ben Wick said there also needs to be an opt-out clause that did not require both the city and county to sign off to terminate the agreement.
“That’s a huge red flag,” Wick said. “We don’t want to go near that one.”
Council Member Ed Pace continued to express frustration that at one time the city of Spokane had offered to turn over the ownership of the transfer stations to the county for nothing. However, Jackson said that was contingent on a longer commitment by the county to haul waste to the burn plant.
“If we’re not in this as partners (with the county), then we’re in a different ballgame,” said Council Member Rod Higgins. “If we can’t keep a close eye on these guys for close accounting, they’ll nickel and dime us to death.”