The Douglas County Board of Commissioners Wednesday approved a new rule allowing fee waivers of up to $750 for cleanups sponsored by city governments. Each incorporated city would be allowed one waiver per year.
The move followed a controversy between the City of Myrtle Creek and the county. Myrtle Creek had announced last week it was canceling an annual cleanup event because it could not obtain a fee waiver from the county. Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice said Myrtle Creek was told the county didn't have a formal process at the time for fee waivers.
That's because the county commissioners had canceled all fee waivers Feb. 20 following controversy over a $50,000 fee waiver granted to the Hanna family for waste from the demolition of the Windmill Inn. The Hannas replaced the Windmill with the Hampton Inn and plan further development on the site, which sits at the corner of Garden Valley Boulevard next to the Interstate 5 entrance. Prior to February's decision, the organizers of many community cleanups had routinely received fee waivers to deposit the collected trash in the landfill.
Boice said Wednesday the challenge is to find a fair and equitable way to determine who gets a fee waiver. He said fee waivers granted in the past, both for economic development projects and for cleanup projects, have benefited the community because cleanups beautify the area and development brings additional tax revenue.
Boice proposed the new city waiver as an off-agenda item Wednesday morning. The commissioners were unanimous in approving the new rule.
The waiver's limit is high enough it would likely cover the total cost of Myrtle Creek's cleanup, if the cleanup matched last year's event. Myrtle Creek City Manager Sean Negherbon told The News-Review last week if it had to pay the fee to dump all the trash it collected last year, the charge to the city would have been about $717.
The new rule would allow the county to budget a specific amount for cleanup waivers. In the past, some waivers have been open-ended on the amount that would be brought to the landfill.
Public Works Director Scott Adams said Wednesday between 1,000 and 1,200 tons of material annually would be deposited free into the landfill under the new waiver rule.
Roseburg City Councilor Ashley Hicks had last week asked that waivers be restored for the annual riverfront cleanup in Southeast Roseburg she organizes, which is not a city-sponsored event. However, the fee waiver approved Wednesday wouldn't cover that or regular riverfront cleanups organized by Umpqua Watersheds. Both groups had previously been given waivers for their projects.
When Adams brought up the possibility of next working on the issue of nonprofit cleanups, Commissioner Tim Freeman noted the motion voted on Wednesday applied only to city governments. He said he liked that because cities have a governance structure the county can work with.
"Cities can also be accountable for the dollars and make sure that the work that's being done is actually benefiting the community," Freeman said.
He said waivers for other groups would need some parameters to ensure people's personal garbage doesn't end up in the landfill.
Myrtle Creek City Recorder Joshua Norton told the commissioners Wednesday the city's public works director followed the same procedure as had been followed in previous years to apply for a waiver. He also said that at no time did he say that it was the county that canceled the city's event. His comments referenced comments Freeman made last week. Freeman had said the city never applied for a waiver, and that the city claimed the county canceled its event.
As reported in The News-Review last week, the newspaper received a copy of the waiver form the city sent the county and copies of two press releases sent by the city, neither of which stated the county canceled the city's event. Both press releases said the city was canceling or postponing its cleanup "due to a denial of the fee waiver." The first press release was posted to Facebook and then replaced by the second, in addition to being sent to the media.
When Norton went on to say he would request a $1,000 donation for a splash pad at the South Umpqua Memorial Pool, and that he will contact the commissioners about fundraising for a free day for county residents at the pool, Freeman responded, "I encourage you to do that somewhere other than on Facebook, contacting me."
Norton said all he put on Facebook was the press release, not any commentary.
"Nor did the county deny a fee waiver," Freeman said.