Don't use franchise issue as landfill debate substitute
The recent debate about Yamhill County trash-hauling franchises conjures a popular phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Stop the Dump Coalition member Brian Doyle persuaded the county’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee to delay a rubber-stamp recommendation to renew Waste Management, Inc.’s garbage-hauling franchise for the eastern part of the county.
Reviewing contracts and second guessing the status quo is an important task for any citizen advisory committee, and there are some interesting talking points with this issue. After all, public agencies constantly are putting projects out to bid to get the best bang for taxpayers’ bucks. Why not consider opening local trash collection services to the benefits of capitalism? Isn’t competition a positive thing?
Unfortunately for the proponents of this idea, the argument is shallow. Waste collection franchise systems are widespread in communities our size for a reason.
Under separate agreements with Waste Management and Recology (which collects on the west side of the county), the county has oversight on fees to customers and receives a percentage of gross receipts for its coffers. In return, the two companies receive exclusive rights to haul trash, allowing for stability and predictability in service for them and their customers.
In making his case, Doyle used New York City as an example. If making the case requires comparison of the largest city in the country to a rural Northwest county, it seems a bit lame.
If several companies could provide services in the same area, our neighborhoods would become cluttered with garbage trucks, and efficiency of scale would suffer.
However, what should be done if another company wants to offer a service that the local franchise hauler does not? That happened last year when a Sherwood company began collecting grape waste, known as pomace, from area vineyards. After some lengthy and interesting days in court, Water Truck Services was fined $150 by the county for violating an ordinance, but Waste Management agreed to collect the pomace and deliver it to a Water Truck Services composting facility.
This case teaches the lesson that we need to consider new ideas when it comes to community waste collection.
Last week’s discussion, however, seems at best an effort to vex Riverbend Landfill owner Waste Management, using the franchise issue as a proxy in attempts to stop the expansion of Riverbend.
Certainly, Yamhill County should scrutinize costs and allow only appropriate fees. But we prefer staying on topic when it comes to the future of Riverbend.