By Pat Grubb
If all goes according to plan, a mandatory waste collection regime will begin in January 2019. This is according to a critical path analysis presented to the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee at their regular meeting on October 10. The analysis was prepared and presented by Jeff Hegedus and John Wolpers from the Whatcom County Health Department.
“It was very interesting to take a step back and look at where we are,” said Hegedus, who had been asked by the committee the month before to prepare the analysis. He listed the various steps that had already been taken such as conducting the community survey, determining what the customer base would be and setting minimum service levels.
“The primary one we’d like to look at tonight is minimum service levels,” he said, adding, “It’s very critical that we have a system that works for the seasonal residents.” Continuing, Hegedus gave an overview of the potential customer base. “There are over 4,600 tax parcels on the Point,” he pointed out, 2,600 of which have a water meter. Whether or not all of these properties are in use and generating waste isn’t known. Hegedus said the best data source is the health department’s permitted septic system users which total approximately 2,300; all of which are charged a $19 operating fee by the department.
After some back and forth with committee members, it was agreed to use that data source as the customer base for solid waste fee collection.
Turning to minimum service levels, Hegedus and Wolpers suggested that twice-monthly 32-gallon trash pickup and recycling service would be workable and provide sufficient economy of scale to ensure a successful and sustainable sanitation system. The current charge for that level of service is $16 a month.
However, as that tariff hasn’t been changed in 10 years, it is possible that the cost could change in a tariff review by the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), the agency responsible for setting trash hauling rates. The current cost is in line with what other local haulers charge their customers in Whatcom County. Instituting the new system will require review by the UTC.
After agreeing to the minimum service levels, the committee turned its attention to how the community would respond to the new system. “Marketing is going to be very critical so people will know what’s coming up,” said Jeff Christopher, the taxpayer association representative for PRCAC. Fellow committee member David Gellatly agreed, suggesting that the manner in which changes to the character plan had been communicated to the public left much to be desired. Gellatly, the chamber of commerce representative, is also the owner of Cando, the company that currently provides solid waste services on the Point.