Council discusses garbage, water rates
By BECKY THOMAS
The Cheney City Council discussed the ongoing saga of solid waste disposal as well as potential changes to the water rate structure at its regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 14.
Public Works director Todd Ableman updated the council on the work of a regional committee to find alternatives to the current countywide waste disposal system.
Currently, Cheney's garbage is trucked to Spokane's Waste-to-Energy Plant, but that contract ends in 2014 and city leaders think they can find a lower price elsewhere. Many other jurisdictions in the county are considering changes, and a committee has been working to identify alternatives.
The problem, Ableman told the council Tuesday, is a lack of movement on decisions within the committee. A request for proposals to evaluate the costs of a potential county-wide transfer and disposal system had no responses this summer, further delaying the process.
“What is the region looking at? What is the county looking at as far as what direction they want to go? We're not getting that answer in a timely fashion,” Ableman said.
Any new plan would require an extensive and time-consuming review by the Department of Ecology, and Ableman said the two years left in Cheney's contract could go quickly.
Therefore, Ableman and city staff have developed a draft solid waste disposal plan for the city of Cheney, addressing the amount of garbage the city generates, evaluating disposal options and outlining the city's needs. That draft would be complete early this fall, and Ableman said the plan would likely be submitted to Ecology by the end of 2012.
While it is still unclear how the city will address its future garbage disposal needs—a regional system is still being investigated—Ableman said the individual city plan was a way for Cheney to weigh all its options.
“We want to make sure we get all our decision points lined up so we know which way to go.”
Also at the meeting, City Administrator Arlene Fisher introduced a change to the water rate structure that has been discussed by staff and council committees for the past four months. She said water rates haven't changed since 1997, and the variety of water users, from single family homes to large apartment complexes built in recent years, has necessitated a change to the way Cheney charges for water.
“The whole point of this rate equalization is to make sure that everyone is paying the same, fairly and equitably,” she said.
Details on the changes were not discussed, but Fisher said the issue would be brought before the council soon.
Mayor Tom Trulove emphasized that the change would not come as an across-the-board rate increase, but rather a revamp of the rate system.
“We're not talking about fundamentally increasing; we're talking about rebalancing the system, actually changing the methodology of the way rates are set,” he said.
Also at the meeting, the council approved an increase in the utility deposit charged to renters from $75 to between $150 and $200, depending on the number of services used. The deposit, which is either used to cover unpaid bills or returned to the renter when they vacate the property, was last raised in the 1970s.
The Cheney City Council next meets Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. in City Hall council chambers.
Becky Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.