The situation at the Douglas County Landfill is a bit of a mess, and by all accounts, the situation is only going to get worse, particularly when it comes to the cost of disposing of trash there.
Take Roseburg for example. Under the current set of contracts and agreements, trash collected within Roseburg city limits is hauled out to the county landfill, and it’s not cheap — at $94 a ton, it’s more than triple what some other landfills in the state charge.
So the Roseburg City Council on Monday took initial steps to allow Roseburg Disposal Co., which contracts with the city to handle the trash, to be allowed to take the waste to another site. But there’s a catch: Roseburg Disposal will have to pay the county $15 for each load it hauls to another landfill, and those and other added costs are being passed on to city residents.
“The current ordinance says they have to take it to the landfill, they have no other option. So this gives them another option to take it somewhere else,” City Manager Nikki Messenger said of the proposed change. “I wish we could go back in time a little and have some choices made differently, but we are where we are now.”
The landfill is slowly getting close to being full, which raises a host of issues and concerns, said Scott Adams, public works director for Douglas County. Estimates on how much longer the landfill has to operate range from eight to 12 years, he said. Also, landfills can continue to operate, sometimes for decades, past the date they are considered full, he said.
But the county has to put money aside for closure and post-closure costs associated with the landfill, he said, which is the reason for the high costs of accepting trash there and the new fee for taking trash elsewhere, known as an export fee.
For 70 years or so the county allowed Roseburg and other places to dump waste at the landfill free of charge, Adams said, and only began charging a fee about six years ago. Now the county is in the position of playing catch-up, both in terms of raising funds and extending the life of the landfill, he said. The situation is so dire that the county itself will likely begin taking trash to other landfills in a year or two, Adams said.
“Most waste at the landfill came from the city, and for 60 years it was free,” he said.
City Councilor Brian Prawitz agreed that the reason rates are so high now and going up is because the city paid nothing for its waste for so long. The proposed changes are necessary, he said.
“I see this as protecting the Roseburg landfill and the contribution the city has made to garbage in it,” he said.
City Councilor Bob Cotterell, however, opposed the proposed change, calling it unfair to Roseburg Disposal.
“Charging someone for not using a service doesn’t sit right with me,” he said. “I just can’t support that.”
By a show of thumbs, the council approved the proposed changes on first reading. A final discussion and vote will come at a later meeting.