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Solid Waste Management Authority “going down in flames”

Opinion Piece by Samuel Strait – March 23, 2017 –
I cannot say that I am exactly surprised that the DNSWMA is going down in flames.  It has been several years now that I have warned the public about the total dysfunction at the Authority and the Commission’s inability to understand that with the current staff in place the problems will only escalate.  The bottom line is that the Authority has long been a huge problem for the rate payers and the continued existence of the Authority will quite simply multiply the rate payers costs to the point that many more of Del Norte’s citizens will no longer be able to afford curb side waste disposal.

The biggest current problem as we all can see is the single stream curb side recycling pick up at no charge to the rate payers and unattended recycling drop off points serviced by Recology throughout the County.    While this has become the most immediate problem, it is but one of the almost continuous string of issues that have plagued the Authority since its inception. There are in reality no easy solutions to be offered from the Authority as it is currently composed.  As it is not an essential Joint Powers of Authority (JPA), a good first step would be to dissolve the Authority  and roll its tasks and responsibilities into the County.  Without the sole focus on “free recycling”, perhaps the Board of Supervisors can inject some common sense into the business of waste collection.

As usual, we as an economically strapped rural county, the State of California does us no favors.   The burden of State mandated recycling targets simply crushes the ability of Solid Waste to reach the mandates and still maintain affordable rates for the many poor in the County.  Having those that insist on a curb side recycling program pay for that service is one way to cover the unacceptably high cost of recycling in our County.  While this may make it difficult for the people reporting the diversion rate to reach the state mandated goal of 30%, we really do not have an accurate mechanism for determining that rate in the current scheme of things any way.  For those of you who actually believe that we can accurately report our current diversion rate do not be deceived.

The combination of fewer high paid staff involved in waste disposal with the dissolution of the Authority, combined with a more responsible curb side collection, no longer free, recycling program, and better contract negotiations with vendors, could very well mean at least a flattening of the rate increases, and a more responsible means of Waste Collection.  Let’s face it the current Authority has no real means of solving its current crisis without a substantial rate increase.  I have been advocating terminating the Authority for some time as the only path to solutions for some of the many problems that the Del Norte Solid Waste Authority represents.

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