Despite protests from two county commissioners, the Spokane Valley City Council unanimously decided Tuesday it was time to let Sunshine take over its solid waste needs.
The council will vote on a proposed contract with Sunshine Disposal and Recycling, a Spokane Valley company, at next Tuesday’s meeting. That would mean that Spokane County’s regional solid waste system partnership will move forward without its second-largest city.
Commissioners Todd Mielke and Shelley O’Quinn said the city’s estimates that it would save upward of $250,000 per year by going with Sunshine to haul waste from transfer stations – Waste Management will continue to handle the curbside end, so residents will see no change there – are inaccurate and don’t take other cost considerations into account.
“I think we have the same objectives,” Mielke told the council. “The number-one issue is to have a seamless transition. We are looking at lowering costs, but we can do that by all coming together.”
City officials, however, have been troubled by the county’s inability to come up with firm numbers for future rates and say they are satisfied with Sunshine’s offer of a guaranteed rate plus future cost increases that will be lower than inflation.
“People need to trust their government,” said Council Member Ed Pace. “We can’t sign a contract when we don’t know what the exact rate is.”
The situation has come to a head because the city of Spokane-controlled regional waste system will come to an end in November. While the county has stepped in to fill the void, the commissioners have said they cannot guarantee a rate until they are sure which municipalities will sign on.
With Spokane Valley looking to contract with a private company, other cities could follow suit.
Sunshine has a transfer station north of Interstate 90 in Spokane Valley that would be expanded under the proposal. Waste Management trucks, after picking up trash and recyclables curbside, would bring their loads to Sunshine facilities.
It would be up to Sunshine to long-haul trash to regional landfills. The county has pledged to utilize the West Plains Waste-to-Energy plant for at least three more years before looking at other options.
Sunshine’s option states Spokane Valley rates would be $98.15 per ton, with future increases kept under inflation. While the county has estimated its rates would be $104.56 per ton.
Under both plans, those who self-haul their trash – estimated to be about 38 percent of households in Spokane Valley – the rate would be around $15 per load.
“We don’t have any guarantees (with Spokane County),” said Council Member Ben Wick. “We’ve done a very good job as a contract city.”
Leaders in the cities of Liberty Lake, Airway Heights, Millwood and Deer Park are also looking at their own options for handling solid waste.