Solid Waste Advisory Committee to consider transfer station closures

January 11, 2019

More than half the transfer stations accepting Douglas County residents’ garbage might be headed for closure.

No decisions have been made yet, but the Douglas County Solid Waste Advisory Committee Wednesday considered a proposal to close seven of the county’s 11 transfer stations. The discussion centered around keeping transfer stations in Roseburg, Reedsport, Oakland and Myrtle Creek, while dumping the smaller transfer stations, which are more costly to operate per ton of garbage collected.

The committee heard from Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice, Ross Wilson of Wilson Consulting, and Public Works Director Scott Adams that changes are necessary to keep the solid waste system self-sufficient.

Wilson said it’s just not cost effective to maintain all 11 transfer stations.

“The county really needs to think about what the optimal mix is of cost of operating a transfer station versus the benefits because they’re getting too expensive at this point,” Wilson said.

He also suggested the county could adjust charges at each transfer station to match the actual costs to operate it. That’s a move that could lead to more residents signing up for service from private haulers, or to driving a bit farther to save money — effectively self-selecting the most efficient stations. Wilson said he’s on the fence about keeping a fifth transfer station open at Glide, in addition to the four mentioned above.

Some of the smaller stations are quite expensive to operate. For example, operating the Tiller station costs about $300 per ton of garbage deposited there. A customer charge based on the real cost at the Roseburg transfer station would be $4.51 per trash bag, while at Tiller the cost per bag would be $12.25, Wilson said.

Haulers’ rates would be lower than that, he said.

The committee was also asked to consider raising the landfill disposal fee rate from $73 to $89 per ton. The cost to operate the landfill is increasing due to costs to handle leachate and to meet Department of Environmental Quality’s requirements that the county provide financial assurance that it will be able to cover the cost to close the landfill once it is full.

Wilson suggested the committee consider recommending the increase take effect July 1; however, several trash haulers at the meeting said that wouldn’t give them enough time to adjust their fees to cover the increase.

The $89 per ton figure is lower than the county’s actual cost to both operate and save for the eventual closure. That figure, Wilson said, is closer to $97. He recommended starting at $89 and having slow increases each year thereafter.

Committee member Dick Heard suggested the number should be adjusted to $97 right away. He said the county would receive the same push-back either way and there’s no reason the county should operate at a loss.

Other committee members voiced concern that increased fees would lead to additional illegal dumping in the woods. Adams said the county is working on getting a compliance officer who would enforce the laws against illegal dumping.

The Solid Waste Advisory Committee advises the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on solid waste issues. Final decisions on policy issues such as rate changes or transfer station closures would be made by the commissioners. The committee plans to meet again at 3 p.m. Feb. 13 in the Douglas County Courthouse to hear additional information from county staff it could use to make a recommendation on transfer station closures and rate changes.

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