The Tillamook County Commissioners did not vote in favor of extending their contract with CARTM past Dec. 31, 2018.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Michael Maginnis, CARTM Treasurer said at the workshop with the County Commissioners on Dec. 14.
And then, the room was silent.
The workshop brought together CARTM representatives and the County Commissioners to discuss a contract extension.
CARTM reported that their trash revenue was up 24 percent with considerably fewer transactions since implementing surcharges on Nov. 15.
CARTM staff requested that their contract be extended until the end of the fiscal year (June), and that the County issue a request for proposal so CARTM could respond with what services they could provide.
But, time is money.
“I’ve been very disappointed in CARTM’s actions in the last three months,” Commissioner David Yamamoto said. “The business model for this is broken. The County can’t afford to spend $27,000 a month…I asked very clearly for you to work on an updated business plan to a point that the County can afford. I’m glad that Public Works has come up with the money, but we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Earlier this year, the Commissioners rejected a bid from CARTM to operate the Manzanita Transfer Station for an annual amount of $500,000 – more than 500 percent the amount
CARTM has traditionally been allotted through the special Solid Waste fund as a franchise – which was $8,000 a month.
Commissioner Bill Baertlein echoed Yamamoto’s concern.
“I applaud what you’ve done. You’re unique in the state and maybe the country,” Commissioner Baertlein said. “For me, my main concern is the financial aspect. We’re putting our budgets at risk. That’s what I’m hired to do, is to take care of taxpayer money.”
Baertlein noted that Solid Waste has overspent their budget the last two years, forcing the Commissioners to write an apology letter to the Oregon Secretary of State detailing that they would not let that happen again.
“I’m so sorry, we’ve seen no adjustment or movement,” Commissioner Yamamoto said. “Do I want to close down CARTM? No, I do not. The fiscally responsible thing is to not pay the $27,000 we didn’t budget for.”
CARTM responded, explaining that they have cut programs and streamlined some of their operations.
“I disagree with the other Commissioners. If we don’t extend the contract, CARTM is gone,” Commissioner Tim Josi said. “To not give them an opportunity to work on it would be a grave mistake by the Commissioners. This thing just fell apart nationwide. I think we should give them a chance to catch up with a viable plan.”
The Commissioners voted 2-1 not to extend CARTM’s contract (Baertlein, Yamamoto against, Josi in favor).
CARTM will operate until Dec. 31.
The road to closure
In September, the County Commissioners approved CARTM and Tillamook County Public Work’s request for an extension on their franchise agreement through December 2018.
“Due to changes in the recycling markets and extensive equipment expenses, CARTM’s compensation for managing the transfer station without severe reductions in services would need to increase,” CARTM’s Facebook page stated.
Since Nov. 1, China no longer accepts large amount of recyclables from the United States due to contaminants.
The change in recycling caused one of CARTM’s three pillars of cash flow to come crumbling down. CARTM’s historically relied on roughly one-third of its income from trash, one-third on the Refindery, and one-third on recyclables.
“CARTM has been a shining star,” Commissioner Tim Josi said. “Too bad things have gotten to where they are today. You folks are visionary, and putting in your own time. It really was a national model. Then, all hell broke loose.”
The contract extension has allocated $27,000 a month since September to CARTM: money which was pulled from Solid Waste’s sinking-fund.
Yet, CARTM estimated that $30,500 is the bare minimum to just keep the transfer station open and operational on a monthly basis.
To help offset costs, CARTM implemented surcharges. The minimum fee for trash disposal increased from $8.25 to $16.25.
‘We were blindsided’
Immediately following the Commissioner’s decision, CARTM announced the news via Facebook.
“We are heartbroken to announce that after many months working in good faith with County staff to continue operations at the Manzanita Transfer Station, today the Board of Commissioners voted to not renew our agreement, which expires December 31.
“We were blindsided by this decision today, which means that we have a little over two weeks to wind down our operations, as we continue to serve our customers. Please be patient with our staff, who were notified 10 days before Christmas that they are losing their jobs. A board member will be on site this weekend to respond to your questions.”
CARTM will close Dec. 31, and has begun closing services immediately. Items for the Refindery are no longer being accepted; the contracter’s lane is also closed.
Commissioner Josi requested that Solid Works provide a proposed plan for the future of the Manzanita Transfer Station to the County Commissioners at their Dec. 19 meeting.
Recycling future for north county residents
“I’m distressed that we don’t have a plan,” Commissioner-elect Mary Faith Bell said at the Dec. 14 meeting. “What does that look like for the community?”
CARTM has decided to handle concerns from north county residents themselves. They have scheduled a public meeting at the Pine Grove Community House at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 19. The CARTM Board hopes to answer questions about what the final weeks of the organization will look like.
“Many members of the community have expressed a desire to show their appreciation and support for the 13 CARTM employees who are suddenly losing their jobs during the holiday season,” CARTM posted on their Facebook page. “If you’d like to contribute, the CARTM Board asks you to bring gifts (cash and gift cards are OK) to the Manzanita Visitor Center by Friday, Dec. 21. Volunteers will assemble them into baskets.”¬
CARTM is also accepting gifts for employees’ children that are aged 4 (girl), 5 (girl), 6 (boy), 11 (boy), and four teenage children.