• Arne Mortensen

Headquarters Landfill - setting the record straight

Yesterday at the 20 June 2017 County Commissioners Hearing, Cowlitz County Public Works Department presented the commissioners with options for going forward with a potential change of status of the Headquarters Landfill. PWD recommended option 1, the option which gave the County Commissioners, per RCW 70.95A.090, the greatest flexibility to address any form of change of status. The commissioners voted to adopt option 1 as the governing rule going forward. The vote was two for the option and one, Dennis Weber, against the option.

The TDN article in the paper today, 21 June 2017, mischaracterized the discussion over the resolution to adopt option 1. The issue consisted of two points:

  • Option #1 was a direct verbatim statement from the above-mentioned RCW, and it was presented as such. It is beyond the scope of the county to modify RCWs.

  • It makes no sense at all to limit the options of the county in any dealing. Certainly, that is the case here because except for some informal discussion expressing interest in the Headquarters land-fill (HL) nothing else is known.

Joe Gardner was not neutral in this matter, as his vote reflected. Both he and I expressed a clear appreciation that the public that has commented at the hearings are unanimously against the sale… and that weighs heavily. But I would not be faithful to my pledge to provide transparent and responsible government if I prevented the public from seeing an offer.

To emphasize this point, I contrived the allure of a hypothetical one billion dollar offer for the HL. What would the citizens do in that case? Roughly that would be $8,000 for every person in the county! Would they not like to have a chance to see that?

That leads to my commitment to take to the public any “deal” well before a decision is made. There is no question that the public should get a clear timely view of any proposed status change for HL. The current hearings have been conducted well in advance of any offer. I think this level of early disclosure, while unusual in government, should be the norm. I am surprised that the citizens who do show up at the hearings seem not to appreciate this point.

Another mischaracterization by the TDN article is the omission of my full statement about citizens caring who owns the dump. The entire point is to isolate the principal concerns of the citizens, expressed as part of the aforementioned ownership statement, by identifying the three factors identified so far that citizens really care about. These are:

  • That implicit and explicit promises to the county citizens about the dump rate be maintained [for the lifetime of the dump]

  • That environmental issues be controlled by the County

  • That the HL closure reserves be conducted properly.

I directly expressed full commitment that these concerns would be honored and become a requirement of any change of status.

Another point of mischaracterization goes back to option 1. That option covers all possible options, including the do-nothing option. Clearly the do-nothing is the standard by which any other options must be measured … in other words, a change of status option must be justified based on significant advantage over the do-nothing option. The citizens will weigh in on this decision.

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