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Dump fees likely to drop

"The fee the county charges local garbage haulers to dump trash is on its way down. But residents and businesses are not likely to see much of a drop, if any.On Nov. 6 the Island County Commissioners will decide whether to reduce solid waste and septage tipping fees from $88 per ton to $85 per ton for the next three years. The proposed reduction was recommended by the county's Solid Waste Advisory Committee following a recent rate study. Tipping fees are paid primarily by large garbage collection or septic tank pumping operations, such as Island Disposal or the city of Oak Harbor, or by individuals using the county's waste transfer sites.If approved, this will be the third time county rates will have been reduced since 1995, said Dave Bonvouloir, the county's solid waste manager. Bonvouloir said operational efficiencies were the major reason for the reduction. Such efficiencies include setting up a Camano Island transfer site with a direct connection to Seattle. Previously, all Camano trash was first brought to Whidbey before being trucked to Seattle and then sent to Oregon by train. In addition, Bonvouloir said he and his staff have been aggressively managing contracts with the haulers that move the county's trash to Oregon as well as with the Columbia Ridge dump site itself.Finally, said Bonvouloir, Island County runs its waste disposal system at a bare bones level.We don't go for a Cadillac operation, he said, adding that county transfer stations feature few frills.Though the reduction is significant for those who dump tons of trash, the savings may not make it all the way down to the average guy who puts his garbage can out alongside the road each week. That's because other expenses, such as labor and fuel costs, are going up for haulers. Bonvouloir said the tipping fee reduction will likely just be absorbed by haulers to help offset these other costs. Even if the reduced fees were passed straight through, he said, they would probably only amount to about 25 cents for every 100 pounds of garbage. Bonvouloir said homeowners could create bigger savings than that for themselves by simply reducing the amount of stuff they throw away.Bonvouloir said islanders are pretty good at recycling, but during the coming year the county will be on a mini-crusade to get islanders to cut back on what he calls over-buying. He said county residents are still bringing more than they need onto the islands and adding it to the waste stream, where it eventually has to be hauled off again - at a price that, despite recent reductions, can't keep going down.It may begin to work in the other direction, he said. We may need to raise rates next time. "

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