New landfill fund to cover trail match
They are proposing to use $168,000 of next year’s take to cover its match requirement on the Yamhelas Westsider Trail and $25,000 to meet its match requirement on a project at Rogers Landing in Newberg.
The Oregon Transportation Commission recently awarded $1.4 million for a rail-to-trail running from outside McMinnville to just outside Gaston. The group behind the project, headed by Carlton winemaker Ken Wright, plans to use the initial funding to acquire the right of way from the Union Pacific Railroad.
Initially, plans call for development of a bike and pedestrian trail along the abandoned rail bed. Eventually, they call for laying tracks again, permitting restoration of freight and passenger rail service.
The corridor runs from St. Joseph, just northeast of McMinnville on Highway 99W, to the east side of Washington County’s Hagg Lake, almost to Gaston. It runs through the heart of Carlton.
Rogers Landing is one of the most heavily used Willamette River access points in the upper Willamette Valley. It is very popular with boaters, particularly during the spring and summer, and thus gets heavy use.
The contract created new funding for such projects in two ways.
First, it requires Waste Management to pay a $1 surcharge on out-of-county waste. Under the new terms, the county gets $1.60 a ton for local waste and $2.60 for waste from outside points, notably the Portland Metro Area.
Second, it provides new flexibility in allocation of the resulting funds.
The original contract, negotiated in 1994, earmarked most of the money for administration of county’s solid waste management program and management of the county’s two closed fills. The county had free rein only with about $89,000 a year.
The new contract will provide the county with a much larger percentage of discretionary money, which it can use as it sees fits.
Commissioner Mary Stern said the county is expecting to take in more than $200,000 in tipping fees this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and more than $400,000 next fiscal year, starting July 1, as the new contract fully kicks in.
The two grant matches are not coming out of the county’s solid waste fund, rather a new general fund account called the landfill license reserve, she said. She said tipping fee proceeds beyond what the county needs for solid waste administration and closed landfill oversight are being routed into that account.
“The commissioners can use the funds for any lawful purpose,” according to County Administrator Laura Tschabold. But Stern said the commissioners decided to limit themselves to one-time projects to avoid creating a long-term operational dependency.
“We don’t want to rely on it for operations because we don’t want to get burned when it dries up,” Stern said.
“We’re not counting on getting the money forever. So, the board is preparing itself for the eventuality that one day the landfill will close. It’s proposed to do so in 2014, but even if it continues past that date, it will still eventually close and the commissioners don’t want the county operations to rely on that income.”
County Planning Director Mike Brandt said landfill opponents had long complained the county should be receiving more money for accepting out-of-county waste, and that the additional money would enable the county to accomplish positive things.
“We agreed and started working on a new contract,” Brandt said. “We were missing out on a lot of revenue, and Waste Management agreed it was only fair to renegotiate the terms.”
He noted that Waste Management could have held the county to the original 2014 expiration date. Instead, he said, the company came to the table and bargained in good faith.
The decision to use money from the landfill reserve to fund the trail has irritated some landfill opponents, however.
“The money should go to help those of us destroyed by the dump,” said neighboring property owner Ramsey McPhilips. “In fact, the state allows ‘host communities’ to assess a dollar a ton.
“It is not to build trails — as wonderful as that is — but to pay for the direct damages of having a regional landfill. It could go to plant trees to shield the nasty view of the mountain of out-of-county trash or signs on the roads to the dump that say ‘please tarp your load.’”
McPhillips, who recently ended a nine-day hunger strike, called to protest tentative approval by the state Department of Environmental Quality of a life-extending berm at the landfill, pleaded, “Please build the trail, but not on my back.” He supports the trail project, he said, but Carlton would be better served by securing money from the landfill reserve to repair roads damaged by garbage trucks.
Commissioners had considered using video lottery dollars to cover the grant matches, but decided they were better suited to the Newberg-Dundee Bypass and Grow Yamhill Valley projects.
“It was proposed that we take half from the video lottery funds — limited to economic development — and half from the landfill reserve fund,” Stern said. “I suggested taking the entire amount from the landfill fund.
“I’d like to use the lottery funds for economic development projects as defined in our newly drafted economic development strategic plan.”
She said, “Many people say the landfill negatively impacts our quality of life. Why not use money we are getting from the landfill to enhance our quality of life with projects like the Yamhelas Westsider Trail?
“As I see it, this use of dollars partially compensates Carlton for putting up with the trucks going through town. If we can take bikes and pedestrians off Highway 47 where the trucks are, we are doing something positive.”