County conducting waste survey

Jeff Hegedus with the Whatcom County Health Department is asking the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee for feedback on the first step in their assessment of solid waste service on the Point – a survey asking the community how they think the current system is working.

“We didn’t want to presume to have a solution for problems that weren’t yet defined,” he told PRCAC members at their July 12 meeting. “First we want to look at if there are improvements that need to be made and then what do they need to be.”

The survey, still under review, will be available online and will ask a series of questions about how people handle their solid waste, and what they think of the current system. Do they have curbside pickup? And if not, why not?

“My number one concern is vendor stability,” Hegedus said. “We have over 2,000 water connections and only 300 curbside customers. We need to have solid waste services, curbside and the transfer station, that work for people.”

Committeemember Ron Clark, the representative from the Point Roberts Taxpayers Association, said the association had taken a position in favor of true mandatory curbside pickup, rather than allowing households to file for an exemption if they want to take their trash to the dump. Hegedus said while mandatory curbside service without exemption would provide economies of scale that would allow the service provider to thrive and lower rates, it might not fit all users on the Point. Other solutions, such as the prepaid tag service now in place, might be a better fit for seasonal property owners.

Carol Fuegi suggested that garbage service should be part of property taxes.

“I know in Canada that’s part of the system but there’s no provision in Washington state laws for this,” Hegedus said. “I believe it to be legally untenable but if we hear that preference back in the survey we’ll definitely research it.”

Pat Harper suggested that it would be less convenient for him to have curbside pickup as he lives at the end of a long gravel driveway. “Cando’s tariff does have a rate established if they need to come up the road a bit for pickup,” Hegedus said.

Other concerns from the public included the unavailability of commercial recycling, the need for public disposal and the decreasing frequency of toxics pickup.

“Right now it’s biannually instead of every year so we need to keep these awful things for two years,” Fuegi said. “If you don’t collect it people will dump it in the woods.”

Hegedus said the next toxics collection event was scheduled for this September 24, and they would look at including a question about how the toxics program was working on the survey. “It’s really a question of demand and funding,” he said.

PRCAC members will send their feedback to Hegedus following a discussion at their August 9 meeting. After some test runs of the finalized survey it will go live online and community members will be encouraged to take it.

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