Roseburg City Councilor Ashley Hicks asked the Douglas County Board of Commissioners Wednesday to reinstate landfill fee waivers for community cleanups.
Hicks’s comments referred to the county’s recent decision to suspend all fee waivers following controversy over a waiver given to the Hanna family for the demolished Windmill Inn. The commissioners said the waivers were halted in response to complaints, but they heard fresh complaints this week after the city of Myrtle Creek announced it was canceling a community cleanup because it could not obtain a fee waiver. The county has previously allowed fee waivers for Myrtle Creek’s annual cleanup, as it has for the annual South Umpqua River cleanup Hicks spearheaded.
Public Works Director Scott Adams also serves as solid waste director and has, until recently, been delegated authority to determine who gets a waiver, but the commissioners said they will reevaluate that process. The Solid Waste Advisory Committee in February voted 4-3 in favor of having fee waiver requests brought to them; however, Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice said Wednesday he doesn’t favor that plan because SWAC ordinarily meets four times per year.
Hicks, who said she was speaking as an individual and not representing the City Council, spoke about cleaning up the mess left behind by transients who camp along the river, describing half-buried shopping carts, tents smelling like urine and single-use plastic items donated by community members. She said the refuse is damaging both to tourism and the environment. She said the trash floats down the river to the ocean, where it contributes to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
She said community cleanups aren’t the same as commercial cleanups and should be treated differently than waste from projects like the Windmill Inn demolition.
“You need to support us with allowing those fee waivers. Now, when we do our cleanups we only have one dumpster, so I can’t imagine that touches anything when it comes to what it took to clean out that hotel,” she said.
She said she respects the commissioners and trusts they will make the right decision.
Diana Larson of Roseburg described the decision to remove all fee waivers as an “immature reaction, spiteful, petty and made by bullies.”
Larson said the complaints weren’t about fee waivers generally, but about the Hanna waiver specifically, which she described as a “good ol’ buddy” donation to a campaign contributor.
Bruce Hanna has made campaign contributions to Tim Freeman, but not to Boice. Boice said he doesn’t owe the Hannas any favors.
“I am aware that Commissioner Freeman and Bruce Hanna served together in the legislature, and I think each of them would consider the other friends. For that reason, Commissioner Freeman removed himself entirely from the process,” Boice said.
He said when the Hanna waiver first came to his attention, Freeman had just asked him what the process was for a fee waiver application. Boice said he told Freeman the business would have to contact the solid waste director, who would make the decision.
“I’ll just be honest with you, my initial response to the request was I wasn’t in favor of it,” Boice said.
But he said Adams followed the motto of many county departments and found a way to “get to yes” by ensuring the public would benefit, citing police and fire department training held before the demolition.
Boice said fee waivers won’t be granted until the county has reevaluated the best way to decide who gets them. The only exception, he said, is a waiver already granted to the owners of the abandoned Safeway in downtown Roseburg who will be allowed to bring the demolition waste to the landfill for free.
Freeman said he was frustrated Myrtle Creek didn’t contact him about its cleanup.
“The first thing I hear about this is a Facebook post their city recorder put on saying the county canceled their event. That is just unacceptable to me. If Myrtle Creek wants to do an event, Myrtle Creek should do an event,” he said.
Myrtle Creek City Recorder Joshua Norton said in an email the only thing he posted to Facebook was a copy of the city’s press release issued March 22. It said the city was canceling the cleanup, not that the county had canceled it. However, it did say the cancellation was due to the county’s denial of a fee waiver.