Snohomish County Solid Waste Mission Statement:
“To protect people, the environment, and natural resources by preventing, reducing, and solving problems associated with Snohomish County solid and moderate risk waste”.
Let me be crystal clear; I understand that running a government costs money. Where I get lost is when the government uses small business, to the point where it simply becomes too costly to stay in business, to meet shortfalls in its outdated and poorly managed processes.
Case in point is the recent Snohomish County Solid Waste directed flow control ordinance amendment, which has been adopted by the Snohomish County Council and is supported by current County Executive Aaron Reardon.
The amendment, enacted on April 1, 2011, monitors and financially penalizes the hauling of recyclable materials and the by-product of those materials (non recyclables called “inert materials” by the recycling industry i.e. brick, dirt, etc.) to help infuse revenue into a contractually costly Snohomish County flow control process.
The enactment of this ordinance has caused the private recycling industry to halt services in many cases and substantially alter in all.
To monitor this process, Snohomish County Solid Waste has retained the services of three full time Snohomish County Sheriff’s deputies to track and fine “suspect” loads. Just this past week, the County Prosecutor, Judge/Arbitrator, court staff, solid waste representatives and assorted other legal and governmental minds spent the day in court to argue details of the first two sizeable fines leveled against members of the recycling industry. The total cost for such a display of force, I can only imagine.
So, how does this affect Lake Stevens and the local business community? Locally owned and operated, SVR Construction Services is one of the local businesses affected by this change in ordinance.
SVR hauls, dumps, sorts and sells materials that can be recycled such as wood, concrete, cardboard and metal. We do not haul trash. Less than 10 percent of our dumpster loads can be considered inert materials and the remaining 90 percent is completely recyclable and should not be dumped in a landfill, as the newly amended ordinance mandates.
SVR employees a staff of 20 people who pay taxes, own homes, buy gas and food in our local establishments and volunteer in our community. SVR is being forced to leave Lake Stevens and take its business to another county as the current Snohomish County imposed ruling is simply too costly for our small business to absorb.
It seems ridiculous to me that in an effort to gain more revenue, Snohomish County has effectively ended our ability to pay them anything.
My concerns are personal. I don’t want to leave the community in which we work, own property and volunteer on the Lake Stevens Planning Commission, Aquafest board and local Food Bank.
They are economic. Since April 1, it costs SVR an additional $3,000 per week to conduct business within Snohomish County. Additionally, I can’t help to wonder what small town governments, such as ours in Lake Stevens, will do without the revenue we generate as one of their local employers.
My concerns are also environmental. SVR can remain in business in Snohomish County only if we choose to simply haul everything to a landfill, bypassing our sorting process, and satisfying the counties need to meet a landfill quota.
Mostly, this enactment saddens me. Our small company has survived the economic downturn because we saw a need, filled it, and were surrounded by a community that supported recycling.
My husband and I are smart business people, and were able to absorb the increase in gas costs by keeping our overhead low and living within our means.
What we did not, could not, account for is the overreaching arm of government, in this case Snohomish County Solid Waste, seeing a revenue stream and proposing a story to the Snohomish County Council and County Executive, based on the notion that somewhere, someone within the recycling industry was illegally dumping.
My response? If so, find them. Prove it. Stop them. Make them pay. Don’t stop my ability to support my family, my employees and my community in the process of what can only be a revenue generating effort and nothing else.
In closing, thank you to Lake Stevens Mayor Vern Little and City Administrator Jan Berg in their valiant efforts to propose a compromise on our behalf. We wish Snohomish County had been willing to listen.
Thank you to the environmentally responsible community who hired our little yellow dumpsters for the past ten years. Thank you to those that we have had the pleasure of volunteering for and serving within the community.
Come visit us in our new location outside of Snohomish County. Location TBA.