Jeb Bladine: Give the council a landfill of testimony

It’s great how one of McMinnville’s most diligent city councilors still has confidence in quality public input on important government issues. Let’s hope that’s not just a bunch of garbage.

Nothing like a bad pun to get things started!

In April, the council first considered a boycott of Riverbend Landfill for disposal of in-town refuse. In September, local disposal company Recology described a 10 percent rate increase needed to send all McMinnville waste elsewhere. At the time, we quoted Councilor Wendy Stassens:

“I always feel, especially with a big decision like this, that we learn a lot from hearings,” she said. “We always have really thoughtful testimony from the community.”

That public hearing is next Tuesday in council chambers. But I have to wonder if Wendy’s confidence in reasonable public testimony was shaken last week when a staunch Riverbend opponent threatened to sue the city if it continues sending refuse to Riverbend.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Our confidence in balanced public input, I know, has wobbled more than once during the long and arduous Riverbend controversy.

Recology recognized the possibility that Riverbend faces early closure if legal battles prevent its expansion. The company rightfully moved forward with development of a local transfer station, where wastes could be moved from city transports onto long-haul trucks for disposal elsewhere.

The transfer station, ready for business, is sound protection. But along the way, the debate moved from necessity to choice, and some people still are trying to understand the rationale.

The state gave Riverbend two more years of life by approving a top-off on portions of the landfill. The long-litigated, 29-acre landfill expansion plan, if allowed, would add an estimated 10 years to its operation.

Ironically, if McMinnville diverts its waste elsewhere in a political move to punish, or at least censure, the local landfill, that action might extend Riverbend’s life.

Nothing suggests an outpouring of public testimony at next week’s hearing. But that doesn’t relieve the council of its obligation to consider all sides.

For example, how do current McMinnville rates — with the 5.5 percent hike effective Dec. 1 — compare to rates in surrounding communities? How will the combined 16 percent increase affect the city’s largest commercial, industrial and institutional users? How much would diversion of waste cost Yamhill County? What are the environmental issues, either way? Is the proposed action sensible, or simply symbolic?

Here’s hoping the city council receives what Wendy Stassens wants — diverse, thoughtful testimony to help them make the best decision for McMinnville citizens.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.



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