County proposes yearlong trash rate hike to modernize system

June 8, 2011

By Staff

NEW — 10 a.m. June 8, 2011

King County residents could pay more for garbage collection under a proposal to increase the disposal rate for one year in order to raise funds to modernize the county’s aging solid waste system.

The proposal calls for county Solid Waste Division disposal rates to rise from $95 to $108 per ton, or about 76 cents per month for the average residential customer putting out a single can for collection for all customers outside of Seattle and Milton. The proposed hike is the second rate increase in the last 12 years for the Solid Waste Division.

“Our solid waste facilities were largely built in the 1960s, and they were never designed to handle the nearly 1 million tons of garbage we now process,” Solid Waste Division director Kevin Kiernan said in a statement. “This one-year rate proposal keeps fees as low as reasonable, while covering the cost of providing the service and the capital improvements that our customers need and expect.”

Under the proposal, companies, such as Allied Waste and Waste Management, picking up garbage at the curb and hauling trash to county transfer stations would pay the fee. The additional cost is likely to be passed on to customers.

The county last year extended the 2008-10 rate for another year to provide relief to ratepayers during a difficult economy. Members of the County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee heard about the proposal Tuesday.

The county is in the midst of a more than $300 million modernization of the 1960s-era network of transfer stations in order to meet the needs of the residential self-haulers, businesses and garbage collection companies.

Though county officials typically establish solid waste rates for three-year periods, the one-year proposal is meant to provide time for the county and the cities to consider whether to extend long-term interlocal agreements a dozen years or more beyond the current expiration in 2028.

The county must determine financing for transfer station capital improvement projects in the near future. The new stations have been designed to last for more than 30 years.

By extending the inter-local agreements to 2040 or beyond, the transfer station projects can be financed over the entire 30-year period, meaning lower interest payments for ratepayers than financing over the current 16-year term.

King County has cut $39 million in expenses over the past three years through staffing reductions, changes to operating hours and other measures. Tonnage declined 18 percent as a result of the recession, meaning declines in revenue for the Solid Waste Division.

The county has completed replacement or renovation at the Vashon Island, Enumclaw and Shoreline transfer stations, and started construction of a larger Bow Lake transfer station. After Bow Lake, the schedule calls for upgrades to Factoria, Algona, Renton and Houghton by 2016. Garbage from Issaquah is hauled to the Factoria station.

Officials also recently extended operations at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill by another seven years, saving ratepayers the high cost of exporting waste for another decade. The landfill sprawls across 920 acres in unincorporated between Issaquah and Maple Valley.

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