Opinion Piece by Samuel Strait – June 1, 2016 – In the midst of all the other things that have gone wrong for Ms. McClure in the past couple of weeks, two other items of note have come to the surface which speak to her lack of judgement when it comes to the financial health of Del Norte County. As many people in the County already know we have a Joint Powers of Authority (JPA), known as the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority, (DNSWMA) which is a bloated agency that has no real or useful reason to exist of which Ms. McClure, is the current chairman of its commission. She has long been an ardent supporter and often responsible for manufacturing reasons for its continued existence.
Recently, it was reported that the Authority had entered into a contract extension for $140.00 plus per ton with the built-in ability to raise that cost each of the contract years to have our solid waste transported to White City. Mr. Ward, recently advanced to Executive Director of the Authority, announced that this was “a good deal” in that it was better than the ones negotiated in Curry and Humboldt Counties. What he failed to mention is that the average disposal rate per ton in the entire USA is less than $40.00. On the East Coast where waste disposal is often much higher, it is still reported at a mere $70.00 to $80.00 per ton. Ms. McClure and the commission voted to accept this contract with little to no questions asked. So the question I would ask, is, Why does it cost so much? And who profits from this arrangement?
But the story does not end there. Remember, I said there were two things that came to light. One of the big “selling” points for the continued existence of the waste authority was the recycling programs that it has established but does not operate, many of which are not cost effective and generally wasteful. This was done primarily to make the authority seem useful and allow for its continued operation to the tune of a million dollars plus per year. What was unexpected, although Mr. Ward, being an “expert” in this field should have been aware of certain information long before the recycle bubble burst, was that recycling costs money, in fact a lot of money. Best estimates for small rural counties with only small amounts of recyclables range from $240.00 per ton all the way up to $280.00 per ton, nearly twice the exorbitant waste disposal rate of $140.00. Hence, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to learn that our one and only recycling contractor is going broke. In light of all the other recent revelations about Supervisor McClure, one has to ask the question once again, Who exactly benefits from the continued operation of the DNSWMA as she and Council woman Kathryn Murray are ardent supporters of this bondoggle?
While much of the information surrounding recycling is generally positive, if one does some research certain problems of which there are no current solutions continue to trouble the recycling industry. Contamination, high cost of handling recyclables, transportation costs, low commodity prices, and the chief one is that often in surprisingly high percentages recyclables end up right back in the landfill. While there are certain policies that can be put in place by the Waste Authority to mitigate a small fraction of the difficulties, ours has done none of them, primarily to keep the recycling percentage of diversion at an acceptable rate. Yet, even that diversion rate is highly suspicious as the recyclables do not go across the Authority’s own scales. If as the Authority suspects, that a more realistic approach to collection was put in place, the diversion rate would dramatically be reduced as recycling become too much trouble at the curb. Instead of accepting the reality, that “zero waste” or even a 30% diversion rate is not really in the best economic interests of the County, our own Martha McClure, chair person of the Solid Waste Commission, continues to lead us down the proverbial “Garden Path of Fantasy land” with no end in site. Of course as Ms. McClure’s financial fortunes have dramatically improved since coming into political office, none of this really affects her and hers. Down with the Queen!