Cheney Free Press -

Cities could benefit from exploring solid waste options

In Our Opinion


There are going to be several changes happening throughout the West Plains in the next several years and one of them revolves around the matter of solid waste.

The city of Spokane has transferred control of the regional solid waste system and transfer stations to Spokane County, who will take the reins starting in November.

The county wants to get into the business of solid waste because as the regional government, they feel qualified to run it, and they sent out requests for proposals (RFP) for businesses to oversee the transfer stations and the system.

Spokane will keep the incinerator and individuals will still be allowed to bring their garbage there.

November is also when a 25-year agreement between Spokane County and cities throughout the county to dispose of solid waste is ending.

The county wants all of these cities — which include Cheney, Medical Lake and Airway Heights — to resign a seven-year agreement because they believe “the regional approach is the best approach.”

But, rather than immediately join with the county, these cities have already established — or are exploring — other options for solid waste management in their communities.

The Cheney Free Press editorial board supports these communities for taking a different approach instead of just taking the first — and in some cases the safest — option that was presented to them.

Leaders in these jurisdictions want to find the best rates in hopes of reducing the cost of garbage for their citizens. Although people may not notice a large difference on their utility bill, the city will save some money.

Down the road, these funds could be put toward other projects such as fixing damaged roads or restoring parks.

Cheney is already ahead of the curve as they have their own pickup, recycling and education programs — everything that Washington state requires them to do for solid waste disposal.

Eastern Washington University is also planning to build a new recycling center and Cheney could collaborate with the university to develop a recycling program for students.

Cheney is looking at the possibility of taking their waste to a regional landfill. However, the city is not ruling out the possibility of working with the county.

Medical Lake is already under contract with Sunshine Disposal and Recycling for their solid waste collection. The city will negotiate a new deal with them in October and adjust their rates based on the numbers they get.

Sunshine will also allow Medical Lake citizens to use their transfer station for individual hauling.

Airway Heights is entering into a collective RFP with Millwood, Liberty Lake and Deer Park. The proposal will include a comprehensive solid waste management plan, approved by the Department of Ecology, and a fee structure. These cities also plan to negotiate with the county if they do not receive any bids.

While Spokane County has provided estimates, they have not provided specific numbers for rates such as tipping fees, which is the charge levied upon a given quantity of waste received at a processing facility.

The county could have hired an actuary to calculate a number based on the growth and trend in specific counties, over the last 25 years.

But, even if the county can provide numbers that match other businesses for the umbrella proposal, there is a chance that cities still may not sign with them.

Several city leaders disagree with having to pay the $9.9 million the county has paid to buy the system and transfer stations. They claim they have already paid that through the original agreement with Spokane.

Another issue is control. City leaders want to have more supervision in how waste management is handled in their city and felt that the county should have discussed options with them first, instead of sending out a new agreement where the cities had no say on the matter.

Perhaps the county commissioners should look at this situation and take a different approach in the way they do business with the smaller cities down the road. They may want to discuss things with these leaders rather than assume that they will go with flow.

As for the cities, this could be a good learning experience for them that may help them in the future.

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