The City Council could cut a popular program, started in 1989, that accepts residential yard waste for a fee.
If the council OKs the proposal, the city would stop operating the Clean Green Transfer Station at Lakeway Drive and Woburn Street on a weekly, seasonal basis.
Instead, the city would open the transfer station once in spring, once in fall and to collect storm debris. City residents could use the service for free at those times , according to a report from the city’s Public Works Department.
The spring and fall openings are estimated to cost $10,000 each.
$195,399 Cost to operate Clean Green in 2015
$109,748 Amount paid in user fees in 2015
The proposal will go before the City Council on Monday, Jan. 11.
The station, which is closed for the season, accepts yard debris that includes grass clippings, garden trimmings and tree limbs of a certain size. Collected yard waste is processed and then hauled to Skagit County to be turned into compost.
Bellingham and Whatcom County started the program, but the county stopped subsidizing Clean Green in 2015. Subsidies come from solid waste tax revenue.
It cost $195,399 to operate Clean Green last year, with $109,748 paid in user fees from city and county residents. The city paid the remainder. (User fees were charged starting in 2004.)
The proposal isn’t a surprise.
The council in 2014 went to a shorter season and doubled the drop-off fee to $10 a load to raise revenue and cut operating costs. A question over the program’s continued existence was raised then.
City officials say, too, that Whatcom County residents have other options for getting rid of their yard waste, both drop-off and curbside service from private companies, that they didn’t when Clean Green started, and at a low cost.
Other reasons for ending the program now include:
▪ a new contract, starting in 2016, for hauling and disposal that likely will mean increased cost.
▪ required improvements to make sure the Clean Green site meets city and state requirements for stormwater control and water quality, at a cost of $1 million, should the program continue operating in the same way.
▪ the need to use the solid waste fund for higher-priority projects, most notably waterfront cleanup
Some worry that getting rid of Clean Green could lead to illegal dumping of yard waste.
“It’s certainly a concern that’s been raised in the past,” said Ted Carlson, Bellingham public works director.
But officials hope available alternatives as well as opening the transfer station a couple times a year will help curb that possibility.
“We hope that mitigates any illegal dumping,” Carlson said.