By Pat Grubb
Proposed amendments to Whatcom County’s solid waste ordinance that would end curbside trash collection exemptions in Point Roberts took a step forward after county council unanimously moved to introduce them at its regular council meeting on May 22.
The amendments also mandate “a minimum service level of twice monthly pickup of a 32-gallon can and source-separated recyclables” and places “the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) approved monthly service charge as a fee on the annual property tax statement.”
The amendments were originally scheduled to be introduced at council’s May 8 meeting but it was referred back to the public works and health committee after council member Barbara Brenner raised concerns about not having enough public input and discussion before it went to a public hearing that would have taken place on May 22. Brenner made the motion to decline the introduction after hearing from residents who have raised concerns about the mandatory aspect of the proposed system along with other issues.
“I feel there is pressure to do this thing and I don’t like that. If we go ahead and pass this ordinance, it’s going to put a burden on a bunch of people whether it’s necessary or not. I just don’t think it’s fair to put this burden on people without a lot of input,” Brenner said.
The ordinance will now go to a public hearing on council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, June 5.
The public works and health committee met earlier on May 22 to consider the amendment; although the committee is usually comprised of council members Tim Ballew, Brenner and Barry Buchanan, the entire council was in attendance. A small contingent from Point Roberts attended the 12:15 p.m. meeting; two of whom spoke in favor of the amendment after Brenner called for comments. Point Roberts Taxpayers Association president Mark Robbins expressed his organization’s support for the amendments and noted that the taxpayer board had at its May 8 meeting unanimously approved sending a letter expressing its support to council.
Robbins pointed out that the association included both permanent and seasonal residents and that the members had passed a resolution endorsing mandatory curbside collection as far back as its 2009 annual general meeting. He cited the extensive outreach and publicity given throughout the process of developing the mandatory collection system and said, “Nobody’s been cut off or blindsided by it. We really urge council to not put it on the backburner.”
Taxpayer association vice-president Barbara Bradstock followed Robbins, echoing his support.
“I see in our community, some significant health issues that will be remediated by the action that I hope will be happening. We’ve just had examples of toxic wastes being burned in somebody’s fire pit. They’re seasonal residents who don’t have collection and they put a lot of plastic and toxic things in to be burned before they went home,” she said.
No one spoke in opposition to the proposed amendments.
After a short discussion on procedure, Buchanan motioned to have the amendments introduced at that night’s regular council meeting. In response, council member Satpal Sidhu said, “I wanted to give the opportunity for opponents to be heard. Allowing exemptions is a very uncertain business model” adding that the rates are set by the WUTC and are not arbitrary.
Todd Donovan began to express his support for the proposal but was quickly shot down by committee chair Brenner who told him the motion was to approve the ordinance’s introduction, not to discuss it.
Council voted 7-0 to approve introduction and to schedule a public hearing at the earliest possible date.