Exemption for yard debris a sticking point in discussion

The Lake Oswego City Council has renewed its contract with Allied Waste, the city’s trash and recycling services provider.

The agreement, effective for the next 10 years, was approved Nov. 13. It doesn’t change the services provided or have any effect on rates, according to the VERN UYETAKE - Yard debris cans like this one became a sticking point during a city council discussion last week, when the council renewed its franchise agreement with Allied Waste.

However, the new franchise allows the council to conduct a performance review at some point during the 10-year term and directs Allied Waste to participate on the city’s sustainability advisory board, with which the company will work to develop a materials management plan.

One person testified against the contract. Charles “Skip” Ormsby of the Birdshill neighborhood said the contract splits the area he lives into two portions. In addition, he raised concerns about future changes with equipment and transfer locales.

“I think this contract would be better off delayed until early next year,” Ormsby said.

Looking at updated language in administration rules, Councilor Mary Olson said she felt information about yard debris needed clarification.

“People are telling me they’re putting food scraps in their yard debris cans,” she said, asking whether that was OK.

Lake Oswego does not have residential food recycling, said Jordan Wheeler, assistant to the city manager. However, he explained, there is a gray area in the rules.

“If it grows in your garden that is food, but it’s also yard debris,” he said. “Common sense says it could be thrown into the yard debris.”

Meats and cheese, on the other hand, should never be put in the yard debris cans, Wheeler said.

Olson also voiced concerns about the steps residents are supposed to take if they don’t want to pay for a yard debris can — for example, if they hire a landscaper who hauls away their grass clippings, leaves and other trimmings.

“You have to submit three invoices from your provider,” and that provider must submit receipts showing they haul materials to a licensed yard debris processor.

“I think that is over the top,” Olson said. “I switched yard services because I found someone who provided better service at a better cost,” but the worker doesn’t give her invoices. “I think in total those requirements are ridiculous and excessive for our citizens.”

Craig Holmes, Allied Waste’s operations manager of the servicing division for Lake Oswego, said, “It’s a legacy process,” in place since around 1990, when yard debris collection was first offered. At that time, the city wanted to ensure that citizens choosing alternative collection services were choosing “legitimate” businesses that were actually taking the debris to a composting facility — that “it wasn’t just going over the banks somewhere.”

He said getting an exemption is typically easier than the rules suggest. Citizens often bring in a couple canceled checks showing they pay someone for landscaping services and those services are licensed.

Councilor Mike Kehoe suggested the yard debris rules are outdated, noting there isn’t a detailed exemption process aiming to ensure citizens who don’t want a garbage can aren’t illegally disposing of trash elsewhere.

But Councilor Donna Jordan said she supports the rules, including checking that the alternative debris haulers are licensed to do business in the city.

“Overall what it’s trying to do is protect the environment by not allowing people to just dump stuff wherever they can find a place to dump it,” whether that’s down a ravine or into someone else’s yard debris container, she said.

Councilor Sally Moncrieff agreed.

“It’s really important we don’t have illegal dumping of yard debris,” she said, noting that dumping sometimes does occur in local neighborhoods.

“Yeah — of garbage,” Olson responded, “because we don’t require this of dumping garbage. I mean, hello?”

“We’re looking to provide citizens with safe and sanitary solid waste collection,” Moncrieff said. “We have these trucks on our streets around our children every day of the week.”

Wheeler noted that the city manager could make updates to the rules later if the council wanted to continue the discussion.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of renewing the franchise, with Kehoe and Olson voting against it.

The approval came two years ahead of when the contract was supposed to come up for renewal.

In July, Allied Waste General Manager Carol Dion told the council that renewing the agreement now would avoid the uncertainty that can crop up near the end of a contract. Allied Waste has been preparing to continue efforts building on environmentally sustainable practices in Lake Oswego. Dion told councilors that it was difficult to consider investing energy in that area without a fixed, long-term arrangement.

Allied Waste, formerly known as Rossman Sanitary, has been the city’s solid waste services provider since 1955, according to the company.

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