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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Solid waste rate proposal supports long-term effort to modernize 1960’s-era transfer stations

Summary

A one-year disposal rate proposal for 2012 would support King County’s program to modernize its 50-year-old solid waste handling system, while giving cities and the County time to consider an extension of their long-term agreements in order to save ratepayers money on the cost of financing those improvements.

Story

A one-year disposal rate proposal for 2012 would support King County's program to modernize its 50-year-old solid waste handling system, while giving cities and the County time to consider an extension of their long-term agreements in order to save ratepayers money on the cost of financing those improvements.

"Our solid waste facilities were largely built in the 1960's, and they were never designed to handle the nearly one million tons of garbage we now process," said King County Solid Waste Division director Kevin Kiernan. "This one-year rate proposal keeps fees as low as reasonable, while covering the cost of providing the service and the capital improvements that our customers need and expect."

An increase in the Solid Waste Division (SWD) disposal rates from $95 to $108 per ton would be just the second rate increase in 12 years for SWD, and would mean about 76 cents more per month for the average residential customer who puts out one can for collection.

Kiernan said the proposed rate would still be among the lowest in the region; lower, for example, than rates in Seattle, Tacoma and Pierce County.

King County last year extended its three-year 2008-2010 rate for an additional year to provide relief to ratepayers during a difficult economy. The one-year rate, as proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine, is being heard today by the King County Council's Budget and Fiscal Management Committee.

The County is in the midst of a more than $300 million modernization of its 1960s-era network of transfer stations in order to meet the needs of the residential self-haulers, businesses, and garbage collection companies who use them.

While the County typically establishes solid waste rates for three-year periods, this one-year proposal would provide time for the County and the cities to consider whether to extend their long-term interlocal agreements a dozen years or more beyond their current expiration in 2028.

Financing for transfer station capital improvement projects must be determined in the near future, and the new stations would last for over 30 years.

By extending those agreements to 2040 or beyond, the projects can be financed over the entire 30-year period, resulting in significantly lower interest payments for ratepayers than if the projects were financed over the current 16-year term.

King County has cut $39 million in expenses over the past three years - through reduced staffing, changes to operating hours, and other efficiencies - to meet an 18 percent reduction in tonnage as a result of the recession and an accompanying decline in revenue.

The County has completed replacement or renovation at the Vashon, Enumclaw and Shoreline transfer station, and begun construction of an expanded Bow Lake transfer station. After Bow Lake, the schedule calls for upgrades to Factoria, Algona, Renton and Houghton by 2016.

King County also recently extended operations at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill by an additional seven years, saving ratepayers the high cost of exporting waste for another decade.

The new solid waste disposal rate would apply to residents of King County outside the cities of Seattle and Milton; those two cities are part of separate solid waste handling systems. Haulers that pick up garbage at the curb and take it to County transfer stations would pay the new disposal fees. Residents with curbside pickup are likely to see an increase in the garbage bill from their hauler to cover the new disposal fees.

Learn more about solid waste rate-setting in SWD's annual Rate Study at: https://aqua.kingcounty.gov/solidwaste/about/planning/documents-planning.asp#other

King County operates eight transfer stations, two drop boxes and the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill. Learn more about the Solid Waste Division at:

www.kingcounty.gov/solidwaste .



King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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