Guest Column: Get it right before signing Waste Management contract
Ryan Summerlin March 3, 2014
I submit to your readers a condensed form of my 2/17/14 letter to the IVGID Trustees requesting their reconsideration of the 13-year contract scheduled for approval in IVGID’s 3/12/14 public meeting. I believe the current proposal does not warrant approval.
Ratepayers should reasonably expect IVGID representatives to negotiate an agreement that is financially prudent and environmentally sensitive. The board relies on its staff or outside parties to diligently provide sufficient research to render a balanced judgment. Our recent debacle during the selection process of an IVGID general manager has shown us that our sources are not always as thorough as we wish them to be.
No waste hauler can provide services in Incline without use of the Sweetwater transfer station. Any contract extension should include IVGID’s future acquisition of the site; otherwise the community will forever be held hostage by the owner of that facility, Waste Management.
Under the current proposal, our community will still be handcuffed to WM after 13 years. A better contract must end with the community’s ownership of the facility and greater future freedom to invite competitive bids.
The purpose of the contract extension is to invest in measures designed to solve the bear problem. We assume the proposed residential bear cart is the solution, but it has not been vetted. Usually pilot programs are run to explore whether or not an idea or specific product is viable, but we have not done so.
Assuming the lids on the carts do prevent bear access, what happens when they’re tipped over by bears or snow plows? The odors still attract bears. How do our high-percentage of weekend visitors leave their garbage out for collection later in the week? They either leave their ugly cart at the end of the drive, pay for an extra retrieval service, invest in a permanently mounted shed, or they dump it in some unsuspecting commercial business or condominium dumpster.
WM routinely tacks on charges for additional services. What extra charges can we expect to be imposed when weather and wildlife move or break the carts of the well-meaning customer?
Why aren’t the recycling containers bear-proof? Ironically, in open public comments during the 12/10/13 IVGID meeting, Crystal Shores appealed for relief on a fine levied for a spilled recycling cart knocked over by a bear attracted by the odors of the recyclable goods. Later in that meeting, the board approved preparation of a contract that does not include bear-proof recycle carts.
If we truly intend to detract bears, then our efforts should be consistent. Otherwise, we will see diminished recycling, more fines from IVGID, the continued presence of bears and, two years down the road, another demand from WM for rate increase and contract extension to offset purchase of bear-proof recycling carts.
No matter what we do, it’s naive to expect the bears will simply disappear when they encounter the new carts. Our actions will not instantly alter the learned behavior of maturing bear cubs, who know no different food source.
If we’re successful in denying bears access to our garbage, their keen sense of smell will drive them elsewhere, into our homes. What we prevent in one arena will bring problems in another. The community must have a plan in place as part of any new program.
Proceeding with the proposed contract is irresponsible. As our elected representatives, IVGID Trustees should be certain their staff has adequately vetted all options, foreseen all scenarios, and answered all concerns. Minimally, investigation on transfer station options needs to be performed, and greater research is required regarding carts and their options. What harm is there in this?
In the end, after all questions have been properly addressed, perhaps through a pilot program spanning the seasons, the community can proceed if it deems the proposal worthwhile. At that time, trustees may even opt for an 11-year contract tacked on to the remaining two years (to give the current requested thirteen year total).
Rather than commit to a potential long-term failure, isn’t it better to get it right before we commit?
George Del Carlo is an Incline Village resident and was a 2012 candidate for the IVGID board of trustees.