Washington county abandons deal to privatize local landfill
- A proposal to privatize Headquarters Landfill in Cowlitz County, Washington has been shelved, according to The Daily News. The announcement came last week after incumbent Commissioner Joe Gardner — who has consistently opposed partnering with a private operator — was re-elected by a wide margin. Following the election, fellow Commissioner Dennis Weber came out against the proposal, creating a majority on the three-person county board.
- Republic Services beat out seven other competitors in its bid to purchase the county landfill earlier this year, but officials delayed their decision over the summer. The company was offering an upfront $15 million payment, with an additional $6 million per year in revenue sharing and a five-year freeze on waste tipping fees.
- While discussions surrounding privatization could resurface in a few years, the task of boosting landfill revenue now falls to local government — and, says Kelso city manager Steve Taylor, “The county’s Public Works Department … they want this shot and to be able to prove their worth.”
Cowlitz County began exploring the possibility of contracting with a private operator in early 2017, when an unidentified company made an unsolicited offer to purchase Headquarters Landfill. After receiving RFQ responses from eight companies — Republic Services, Waste Management, DTG Enterprises, Waste Connections, Waste Control Recycling, Green Life Waste Solutions, Recology and Santek Waste Services — county commissioners voted 2-1 last May to pursue a deal with Republic, which owns the Roosevelt landfill in eastern Washington.
Gardner provided the lone dissenting vote, pointing out that Thurston County Superior Court’s decision to suspend penalties around greenhouse gas emissions — which would have cost the county an estimated $5 million annually — had rendered the process obsolete. In addition, he noted, citizens were wary of the rising rates and shorter landfill lifespan potentially attached to privatization.
The landfill's future was said to play an important role in the race, and Gardner appears to have correctly judged voters’ sentiments regarding Headquarters. With another of the three county commissioners supporting privatization, and the county’s nine-member Solid Waste Advisory Committee unanimously recommending against it, final say on the matter fell to Weber.
Cowlitz County's rejection of the deal makes Headquarters somewhat of an outlier among public sector landfills, which are increasingly drawn to private ownership or operation. According to Weber's announcement, the Board of County Commissioners will now take a more active role in managing the site, prioritizing, among other things, maximization of the site's potential 75-year lifespan.
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