The city of Myrtle Creek recently landed in the middle of a controversy over fee waivers at the Douglas County landfill.
Myrtle Creek officials said they canceled the city’s annual community cleanup because they could not obtain a fee waiver to deposit the trash at the county landfill. After they posted a press release to that effect March 22 on Facebook, Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman took the city to task in a commissioner meeting Wednesday, objecting to what he said was the city blaming the county for canceling its event.
Freeman said the city never contacted him to request a waiver, even though he is chairman of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners. He said the first he heard of it was when he saw the Facebook post.
Myrtle Creek City Manager Sean Negherbon said Myrtle Creek Public Works Director Quinn Pickering sent a letter March 12 to Douglas County Public Works Director Scott Adams, who until recently had the authority to approve or deny waivers. A filled-out fee waiver request form was attached to the letter. Negherbon supplied a copy of the letter and waiver request to The News-Review. Negherbon said the city subsequently received a phone call from Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice, who said they could not obtain a fee waiver.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners had removed Adams’s authority to give fee waivers Feb. 20. It also suspended all fee waivers in the wake of criticism over Adams’s approval of a waiver allowing the Hanna family to deposit $50,000 worth of demolished remains from the Windmill Inn into the landfill for free. Opponents of the decision characterized the Hanna waiver as a gift to a good ol’ boy friend of the commissioners. Bruce Hanna and Freeman served together in the legislature, and Freeman has received campaign contributions from him.
Freeman said Myrtle Creek shouldn’t blame the county since it was free to go ahead with the event and pay the costs itself. Negherbon said the city never claimed the county canceled its event.
“We never said they canceled it. We canceled it,” Negherbon said.
There were two versions of the Myrtle Creek press release posted to Facebook, both dated March 22. The second was longer and included a paragraph explicitly stating, “The decision to cancel this event was made by the City of Myrtle Creek. If the situation changes this event may be rescheduled later in the year.”
Both said the city was canceling or postponing its cleanup “due to a denial of the fee waiver.” Myrtle Creek City Recorder Joshua Norton said the press release was changed after Boice called to complain about the first version, which had also included a county phone number as a contact number.
Negherbon said five dump trailer loads of garbage were brought to the landfill after last year’s cleanup, along with 56 tires and 11 refrigerators. He estimated the dump fees would have been about $717.
“That number just doesn’t come out of thin air. We’d have to take that money from another service that we provide,” Negherbon said.
Freeman said he is looking into the possibility of asking a non-binding question on a countywide ballot to obtain public input about how fee waivers should be handled.
“I think this might be one of those questions we should ask as many people as possible,” he said in an email. “Once I figure out the process I will ask the board for their thoughts and possible approval.”