Bellingham's Clean Green fee could double to $10 a load

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 23, 2014 

CLEAN GREEN BELLINGHAM

Kara and Gunnar Nelson of Bellingham hall yard waste out of their truck at the Clean Green Transfer Facility on Lakeway Drive and Woburn Street, on March 14, 2010.

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BELLINGHAM - The cost to drop off residential yard waste at the Clean Green Transfer Station could double to $10 a load this year under an increase being considered by a City Council committee.

The station's season also would be shortened by a month, closing on Oct. 26. The city operates the transfer station.

The proposals will be discussed in the council's Public Works/Public Safety Committee on Monday, Feb. 24. They will be sent to the full Bellingham City Council for consideration if approved.

Located at Lakeway Drive and Woburn Street, the station accepts yard debris that includes grass clippings, garden trimmings and tree limbs of a certain size. The material is turned into compost.

The station is closed for winter but set to reopen weekends starting March 1. The fee increase would start in April if approved.

The fee increase and shorter season are needed to raise revenue and cut operating costs to help cover the $300,000 budget for this season, the committee was told during a previous discussion Feb. 10.

Started in 1991 by the city of Bellingham and Whatcom County, the Clean Green program is subsidized by solid waste tax revenue from both entities. Money also comes from user fees.

The program cost about $275,000 last year. At $5 a load last season, the user fee brought in about $125,315. The city contributed $105,000 and the county $45,000.

This year, the city and the county are both cutting back - contributing $25,000 each.

The county also has said it no longer will contribute funding to the program in 2015.

Meanwhile, Clean Green's existence beyond this season is up for a discussion among city officials, with a decision possibly being made as part of the 2015-16 budget process.

Terry Bornemann, chairman of the Public Works/Public Safety Committee, wants that larger discussion of the program.

While he recognizes that Clean Green is subsidized, "I also recognize what a valuable program, how important the program, and how popular the program is," he said during the committee's discussion earlier this month.

The larger issue for Clean Green is that two other committees have recommended for several years that the program be phased out.

One is the Solid Waste Executive Committee, whose members include elected county and city officials, and the other is the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, which is made up of solid waste professionals.

"The primary reason is that there are now privately run outlets for clean green material, including residential curbside yard waste recycling," explained Ted Carlson, Bellingham Public Works director. "When Clean Green (the program) was originally established these outlets did not exist or were not as readily available."

He added: "The Clean Green program is subsidized by solid waste tax revenue. When Clean Green was the only option that made sense, Now that there are privately run alternatives, the tax revenue can be used to fund solid waste programs that aren't available in the private market."

IF YOU GO

What: A proposal to double the Clean Green fee to $10 a load and to shorten the season by one month will go before the Bellingham City Council's Public Works/Public Safety Committee.

When: The committee meets at 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 24.

Where: City Council Chambers, 210 Lottie St.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com .

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