Whatcom County Council has approved a five-year renewal of Cando Recycling and Disposal’s lease for the transfer station on Johnson Road despite questions about why rent at the Point Roberts facility is substantially higher than at other county solid waste facilities.
At the March 23 county council meeting the vote was 4-3 to approve the lease. Ben Elenbaas, Tyler Byrd and Kathy Kershner voted against approving the lease renewal.
In the earlier meeting of the finance and administrative services committee, county environmental health manager John Wolpers said the county had been charging $750 a month in rent for the Point Roberts facility since Cando took over in 2010, while Sanitary Services Company pays $50 a month for their leases of two other transfer stations owned by the county.
The difference, he said, was to recoup amounts paid in a legal settlement to Point Recycling and Refuse owner Arthur Wilkowski for improvements he had made to the facility before losing his lease.
Following their March 18 meeting the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) had voted unanimously to send a memo to county council requesting an accounting to justify another five years of the higher lease rate.
“The transfer station costs here for this community are higher and one reason is the company is paying that higher lease cost,” said chair Allison Calder. Garbage disposal at the Point Roberts transfer station costs $13.5 cents a pound. Other transfer stations in Whatcom County charge 8 cents a pound.
Speaking to council at their March 23 meeting PRCAC chair Allison Calder reiterated the committee’s request, adding that based on the amount of the $112,191 settlement with Wilkowski in 2010, it would take an additional 28 months rather than 5 years for the amount to be paid off. She requested council amend the lease term to two years so that Cando, and by extension the community that uses the transfer station, were not continuing to pay a higher lease rate once the funds to pay for the leasehold improvement were recouped by the county.
“The person making the request is not the person paying the lease,” said council member Rud Browne. “I see no reason to modify.”
Wolpers said later the lease contract contained language that allowed the lease rate to be revised at a later date. With the departure of Jeff Hegedus from the head of the county’s solid waste management division at the end of 2020, Wolpers said the renewal of the lease was overdue.
“We figured it was best to get a five-year lease in place and revisit it when we figure things out,” he said.
County staff is now working to determine how much of the funds for leasehold improvements had already been paid back by the higher rent. “We are doing the calculations right now, breaking it down to the day,” Wolpers said. The intention is to eventually have the rent for the Point Roberts transfer station match the rent for the other county facilities.