Advisory Board Eliminated by Board of Commissioners
By Terry Noonkester
On April 12th, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners (BOC) met to decide the fate of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC).
Roseburg City Councilor Ellen Porter was among the last members of SWAC when it was put “on hold due to covid-19 safety measures”. That status lasted until April of this year. Porter inquired about her current status on SWAC.
Porter then testified that Commissioner Kress stated in a memo that the SWAC “will be dissolved after it provided advice to the Board that was deemed to be of no value in 2019” and “valueless advice was too close all but 4 transfer stations and to double the disposal fees.“
Porter’s testimony corrects Kress’s memo by stating; “A more accurate accounting of the facts during those meetings was that the County staff and consultant recommended that the SWAC agree with their conclusion that seven of the 11 transfer stations be closed and disposal fees be increased to at least $89/ton if not $97/ton…Carisa Cegavske summed it up so well in the Jan 11, 2019 front page article of the News Review.”
Porter continued; “We had numerous public meetings about the issue and they were well attended by concerned citizens. These citizens were strongly opposed to the closure of so many transfer stations, more so than their concern with increased disposal fees. Concern was greatest regarding the transfer stations in South County and Glide. The SWAC agreed with the public and chose to advise the Board to not close the large number of transfer stations recommended by County staff and their consultant.”
Porter concluded by saying; “…As a long term SWAC member, I disagree with a decision to dissolve the function as it provides much needed transparency associated with this public resource… that decision should be based on an accurate accounting of the facts, rather than the inaccurate assessment recently provided to members of the public.”
After three citizens testified to oppose the amendments, Kress informed Ellen Porter that she and all previous SWAC members were termed-out. He spoke on the concern of the elimination of the SWAC hearings saying, “…we are not doing that, that is what we are doing here today… The BOC, before we can come to any decision have to deliberate in front of the people and allow people the opportunity to say their piece.”
The commissioners office has verified that the public is not allowed to put items on the BOC agenda. Kress warns the audience during every meeting that citizens comments or questions be on the agenda items only. The COB meetings, and this public hearing embedded within the COB meeting, are not structured to allow for rebuttal to the commissioners statements.
Commissioner Freeman addressed the loss of SWAC hearings by saying; “This concept of eliminating a hearing, literally, when the Advisory Board Committee was doing this work, oftentimes the voice of the people got filtered before it got to us, that is problematic, I like this format much better, were we are hearing directly from the people….”.
“When you get an advisory committee that seems adversarial, it doesn’t really work well… It became that, when the members of the advisory committee went directly to the newspaper and said things that weren’t true. Freeman then listed issues that were “left out of” the article rather than anything contradicting it.
Freeman emphasized that the Board of Commissioners did not vote on waivers, “that did not happen, we did not vote on those waivers”. Their county employee, Director of Solid Waste, Scott Adams made two of those decisions regarding the Safeway and the Windmill waivers. Freeman claimed that it was SWAC’s idea to give the Director the authority to make those decisions.
Larry Spielbusch, a former chairman of SWAC contributes a comment; “There would not be a Roseburg Landfill if not for the involvement of the SWAC, solid waste operations, public works engineering, county commissioners and numerous private consultants that convinced the DEQ that a landfill could exist where it is now with the proper controls. For the current BOC to state the SWAC is “useless” is absolutely incorrect and flies in the face of over 50 years of work by a large number of intelligent individuals that provided numerous hours of work to insure we could operate a landfill in Douglas County. This current BOC has no desire to hear what the public has to say and the current solid waste staff/engineering are by far inferior to what existed in the past.”
Neither Kress nor Freeman had ever attended a SWAC meeting. The BOC unanimously passed the amendments to the ordinances that will strike all references to the SWAC from the County Code as of July 12, 2023. SWAC no longer exists.