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Metro ponders bump in trash fee

Per-ton charge used for local community projects could double


Metro is in the middle of discussions to raise and expand the community enhancement fee charged at solid waste transfer stations that fund mitigation projects in the communities where the stations are

located.

The fee is charged at Metro’s transfer stations in Northwest Portland and Oregon City, and at the transfer station owned by Waste Management in Forest Grove. It was previously charged at the St. Johns Landfill in North Portland, which is closed.

The fee funds a wide range of grants intended to enhance communities that could be affected by the transfer stations. This year alone, they included removing invasive plants in Forest Park in Northwest Portland, supporting an Oregon Symphony concert in Cathedral Park in North Portland, and helping to fund the Sidewalk Arts Festival, the Meals on Wheel program and a downtown solar-powered trash compactor in Forest Grove.

The fee has been set at 50 cents per ton of material dumped at the stations, since the Legislature authorized Metro to collect it in the late 1980s. Metro has the authority to raise the fee to $1 a ton, and that idea is being broached with local elected officials, solid waste haulers and operators of the three privately owned transfer stations in the metropolitan region.

One discussion took place at a March 12 meeting of Metro’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee. According to Metro spokesman Ken Ray, the Metro Council will discuss the idea during a work session on April 15. A formal proposal could come before the council this summer.

Money generated by the fee is distributed as grants to nonprofit organizations, including, but not limited to, neighborhood associations and charitable organizations with 501(c)3 status under the Internal Revenue Code.

Since the grant program was established in 1985, it has generated more than $5 million in grant funds. During the 2012-13 fiscal year, the last year for which complete figures are available, the fee generated $128,363 at the Northwest Portland station, $120,379 at the Oregon City station and $53,140 at the Forest Grove station.

In North and Northwest Portland, the grants are recommended by two community-based committees led by Metro Councilor Sam Chase (District 5).

In Oregon City, they are recommended by a committee comprised of Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette (District 2), the City Council and four citizens appointed by the mayor. In Forest Grove, they are recommend by the City Council, with the advice of Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington (District 4).

The fee could be applied at other facilities in the region, including landfills, energy recovery facilities and anaerobic digesting facilities. Other potential locations where the fee might be imposed that have been discussed include Pride Disposal in Sherwood, the Troutdale Transfer Station, Willamette Resources Inc. in Wilsonville, the Recology food waste transfer station in Southeast Portland, and Columbia Biogas, an anaerobic digester that has not yet been built on Columbia Boulevard in Portland.

The fee cannot be applied at reuse facilities, recycling facilities and material recovery facilities.

The discussions are taking place as the council voted to reduce so called tipping fees at its two transfer stations by $1 on March 20. The fee will be reduced from $94.33 to $93.33 per ton on July 1, because the amount of solid waste being delivered to the station has increased and Metro only charges enough to meet operating costs, not make a profit, Ray says.