The clock is ticking for local governments who wish to team up for a new solid waste governing body.
Spokane County officials sent out notices last week to municipal leaders to invite them in the formation a new group to deal with garbage collection and disposal. The government heads have until October to decide if they want to be a part of the new Spokane
Regional Solid Waste Management Alliance.
The subject has not been slated to appear yet on an upcoming Spokane Valley City Council agenda, but council members have already expressed interest in the idea.
Currently, there already exists the Solid Waste Advisory Committee and Spokane Regional Waste System Liaison Board, which both serve in an advisory capacity. The Spokane Regional Sold Waste System is controlled by Spokane County and the city of Spokane, which actually owns the West Plains waste-to-energy plant. Spokane County commissioners, however, do have a say in how large amounts of money are spent at the incinerator.
In February, a two-day summit of local governments was held at CenterPlace in Spokane Valley to focus on the long-term relationship among the current users of the waste system. There has been long-held tension among various government officials that Spokane has held too much sway in how operations are handled – which, in turn, affects the amount ratepayers see on their bills.
Spokane officials, however, are concerned that cities could opt out of using the plant. If too many governments were to do so – especially a large one like Spokane Valley – the city could find itself with an asset that isn’t being used.
“I’m not sure you’re going to find a system that everybody wants,” said Spokane Council President Joe Shogan at the summit. “The city (of Spokane) offers a service, the city runs it and the city issues the bonds. If the system is broke for the customers, each one has to do what’s best for them.”
In the case of the cities of Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake, existing contracts to haul garbage to the waste-to-energy facility will expire in November.
At the summit, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said that no matter what city governments decide to do, the incinerator is only part of the equation. City officials also must factor in recycling and “clean green” efforts like composting and education programs.