By Pat Grubb
A committee to examine the pros and cons of establishing a Point Roberts solid waste district was created during the Point Roberts Taxpayers Association regular monthly meeting on September 11. Local recycling advocate Heidi Baxter proposed the committee during a discussion of trash issues.
Acting as chair in the absence of Mark Robbins who is away on vacation, Jennifer Urquhart pointed out that the board didn’t know what the ‘pros and cons’ were of the proposed district, and recommended that the people who are interested in its creation should provide that information to the community. Urquhart later clarified that the committee was independent of the taxpayer association and suggested it should seek liaison members with other community groups such as the chamber of commerce.
Point Roberts is currently part of the solid waste collection district encompassing the entire county. Under RCW 36.58.100, in order to become a separate district, proponents would need to petition Whatcom County Council which would hold a public hearing and would have to determine that the establishment of a new solid waste district was in the public interest and pass an ordinance creating the district. The county would remain the over-arching authority. A resulting district would be a quasi-municipal corporation with the power to set and levy excise taxes, issue general obligation bonds for capital purposes and revenue bonds to fund its activities. It could also, on approval by voters, levy an annual property tax in excess of the Washington state constitution limit of one percent of a property’s value.
Currently, in Washington state, only San Juan County has a second solid waste district and that is the Lopez Solid Waste Disposal District (LSWDD) on Lopez Island. The district charges users a 14.5 percent excise tax and levies a 10¢ per $1,000 property tax as well as dumping fees. In comparison, Whatcom County residents are charged around two percent on their bills; however, on September 24, Whatcom County approved a revenue-neutral increase in the solid waste excise tax from $8.50/ton to 3.3 percent of the customer invoice.
Presently, both curbside trash collection and the operation of the solid waste transfer station are contracted to Cando Recycling and Disposal. Curbside collection is under the authority of the WUTC while the transfer station is under contract with the county.
The pros and cons committee is comprised of Louise Cassidy, Samantha Scholefield and Kimberley Butts.
(Ed. Note: an earlier version of this article published online incorrectly stated that the approval of a solid waste district required the approval of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.)