Opinion Piece by Samuel Strait – February 10, 2016 –
It appears that Staff Writer Laura Jo Welter has become the Triplicate’s chief apologist for Supervisor Martha McClure and her favorite toy, the Del Norte Solid Waste Authority. Following Supervisor McClure’s recent antics in last month’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting, Ms. Welter wrote a completely tone deaf article implying that Supervisor McClure was perfectly within her rights to throw the tantrum around her removal from the Solid Waste Commission. It seems crystal clear that Ms. Welter is unaware as to the lengths that Supervisor McClure goes to each and every time a favorite piece of her agenda is threatened.
For years Del Norte County has had to deal with Martha McClure’s playbook of the minority. It unfolds rather predictably with a packing of the meeting with a group of citizens claiming to be the majority opinion, but more often it is the same group of the usual suspects. Surprise, surprise, then when chief usual suspect in the form of Elizabeth Henry and close behind comes Friends of Del Norte member Donna Thompson to gently urge the Board of Supervisors to reconsider McClure’s removal from the Commission. While Martha McClure is often not as dramatic, perhaps Supervisor McClure failed to pack the room sufficiently, and felt the need to resort to the stellar acting job which she then displayed.
As is quite often the case, Supervisor McClure doesn’t operate in the realm of what’s best for the majority of citizens in the county, but what is best for her personal agenda. So it was no great surprise when she objected to her removal from the Solid Waste Board where she has been protector in chief for many years. Her performance was no doubt a delight for her supporters in the audience, but that of a truculent fourteen year old who has had her crown removed, morphing into one of a long suffering politician, in her mind, that has been disrespected by her fellow supervisors, then on to the drama queen complete with tears and that handy box of Kleenex, and finally to that of a thuggish Chicago style politician who implies that the man making the decisions has it in for her and that he has a rather murky past, was an appalling thing to see from one who pretends to be working on behalf of all citizens in the county.
Any truly thinking person would want to ask themselves what exactly is it that sparked this kind of behavior from Supervisor McClure, beyond the undeniable fact that none of the supervisors wish to be associated with Ms. McClure’s continuing disaster known as the DNSWMA. As I have said numerous times before, perhaps it is long past time to take a hard look at what value continuing with solid waste in the hands of the DNSWMA has for this community.
When you strip away all the propaganda regarding what it is exactly that DNSWMA, you don’t end up with a whole lot. DNSWMA does not collect a single bit of trash or recycled material. This mantra of I like my curbside trash removal has nothing to do with the DNSWMA. They do not operate the transfer station or transport anything to White City Landfill. They do not handle, sort, or prepare any recycled material to a central collection site.
So what is it that DNSWMA actually does that requires nearly 1.3 million dollars, yes that’s right 1.3 million dollars, to accomplish in a calender year? In an July 2015 Senior Sleuth column, Director Tedd Ward gives us a hint. He talks alot about things that the DNSWMA doesn’t have much to do with, before narrowing it down for us by stating the DNSWMA is responsible for”plans, permits, programs and reporting regarding solid waste, recycling, composting, household hazardous waste, etc.” He goes on to talk about supplying gate staff for the scales, collecting water samples from the old landfill and servicing the operations for the collections and transfer agreements. Sounds impressive, but what does all that really amount to?
Much of what he is talking about is something a reasonably talented clerk could handle with ease. The plans he is speaking of for the most part will increase the cost of recycling and waste disposal to a point where blight and illegal dumping will resurface. The permits are all either done or once again a matter for that clerk. Program development and reporting once again are handled in many other county’s by a clerk. As far as having a six figure salaried Director out collecting water samples or supplying gate staff seems hardly a reasonable use of staff time.
Finally there is the matter of servicing contracts and no doubt being involved in the negotiation of said contracts. Mr Ward has said that DNSWMA can control the cost of collections, yet when the contract calls for DNSWMA to receive 10% from the gross receipts there doesn’t seem to be much of an incentive to control costs. Similarly, he states that the tipping cost is $140 per ton followed by a throw away phrase that it is the lowest cost for 150 miles. It does become significantly problematic when you extend the range to that of the entire USA where tipping rates average $34 per ton and where land is expensive and landfills are distant in the Northeast, tipping rates are but $70 to $80 per ton. Kind of makes our tipping rate among the highest in the country.
I could go on for sometime about inefficiencies and expensive policies at the DNSWMA with regards to recycling and grant writing, but I think the point should have been made, that aside from the fact that the DNSWMA does little successfully beyond that of a county clerk’s job, there is far more that they don’t do well at all at a rather high cost.
While it may take a little effort on the part of our local representatives to disband the Authority, it is imperative that ineffective and redundant bits of bureaucracy are eliminated as the continued bleeding of economic wealth must be put to better use. Too many of the citizens of Del Norte find themselves in an increasingly fragile economic state in which costs for basic services continue to climb. The DNSWMA is one such piece that can no longer be afforded.