King County eyes garbage rate increase

July 5, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Issaquah and King County residents could pay more — less than $1 per month in most cases — for garbage collection soon.

The proposed one-year rate increase is meant to raise funds to modernize the 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.

Under the proposal, the fee applies to companies picking up and hauling trash to county transfer stations. The additional cost to the companies is likely to be passed on to customers.

“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.”

In a decision last year, county officials extended the 2008-10 rate for another year to provide relief to ratepayers amid a tough economy. In the meantime, trash tonnage declined 18 percent as a result of the recession, reducing revenue for the Solid Waste Division.

Members of the County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee heard a presentation about the proposed rate increase June 7.

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

Crews completed replacement or renovation at the Vashon Island, Enumclaw and Shoreline transfer stations, and started construction on a larger Bow Lake transfer station.

Following the Bow Lake project, plans call for upgrades to the Factoria, Algona, Renton and Houghton transfer stations by 2016. Garbage from Issaquah is hauled to the Factoria location.

Allied Waste and Waste Management serve customers inside Issaquah city limits and in nearby unincorporated communities.

Officials also recently extended operations at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill into the next decade. The landfill sprawls across 920 acres in unincorporated King County between Issaquah and Maple Valley.

The county usually establishes solid waste rates for three-year periods, but the one-year proposal is meant to provide time for the county and the cities to consider interlocal agreements. If county and municipal officials agree, the pacts could be extended a dozen years or more beyond the scheduled expiration in 2028.

Leaders must determine financing for the transfer station projects in the near future. By extending the interlocal agreements to 2040 or beyond, the projects can be financed over the entire 30-year period, meaning lower interest payments for ratepayers than financing over the current 16-year term.

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