New Disposal Rate proposed during  S.W.A.C. Meeting

By SN&I Staff  – 8/26/11

A few months ago the Director of the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System, Russ Menke stated during a Solid Waste Advisory Committee meeting that garbage rates in Spokane would need to rise dramatically and could climb to as high as $142.00 per ton in the coming years.  This past Wednesday, he informed the Spokane Regional Solid Waste Advisory Committee that all of the system’s cash reserves were committed and the system was now essentially out of money.

Menke said the City needs to increase garbage rates approximately $10 per ton now, and will need additional rate increases in the next couple of years.

At the beginning of  this year the City of Spokane was budgeting $128.8 million in disposal related expenditures for 2011. Included in this figure was a budget of approximately $56 million for the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System, which is owned and operated by the City of Spokane.

Over the last decade the regional system has charged one of the highest disposal fees in the nation, at near $100 per ton, while running operating loses often in the $7- $9 million range.  On Wednesday Menke stated that the Waste to Energy plant is now in poor shape and in need of repairs.   He has estimated these repairs could cost as much as $18 million, but indicated not all repairs would be able to be accomplished with the newly proposed rate increases.   Menke also indicated that heavily subsidized electricity sales contracts are expiring this year, and there is little hope that new contracts will bring in anything close to what the system has received in the past, adding to the anticipated, increased deficit situation.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Spokane County Commissioner, Al French presented a proposal to replace the existing regional solid waste system with a new regional solid waste alliance that would take regional solid waste administration responsibilities away from the City of Spokane.

The Regional Solid Waste System has benefited from no competition, due to a government imposed monopoly, referred to as flow control,  with as much as 70% of all revenues going to Waste Management, Inc.,  a private sector, Fortune 500 Company.  During Wednesday’s  meeting, S.W.A.C. member and Waste Management, Inc. employee Ken Gimble spoke in favor of maintaining flow control, due to the excellent value the Spokane community receives under this arrangement.  Under the new waste alliance proposed by Commissioner Al French, government flow control provisions would be extended for another 35 years.

No proposals were being considered to introduce private sector competition, which could lower the cost of local disposal towards national and regional averages, currently at nearly half of what the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System now charges citizens and businesses throughout the county.

 

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