From the May 2001 Idaho Observer:

Commissioners to turn North Idaho into a garbage dump

Leaders' vision of trains, prisons and garbage different than vision of citizens

Where we see mountains below clear blue skies filled with osprey; rivers lakes and streams full of fish; deer, elk and moose in richly tree-covered forests that are free for all to enjoy here in north Idaho, the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners sees ownership of really big piles of garbage where they can charge people to watch the seagulls fight over torn sacks of stale bread that had been thrown away by some restaraunt employee from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

By The Idaho Observer

COEUR D'ALENE -- The Kootenai County Board of Commissioners held a meeting at Lake City High School here at 6 p.m., April 25, 2001, to receive public input into a proposed regional transfer station near the intersection of Ramsey and Chilco roads in north Kootenai county's Garwood area.

The proposal, which would close three existing unmanned dumpster sites, was met with vocal and sometimes angry opposition by some 250 citizens in attendance. By the end of the meeting at 10:50 p.m., 20 people had spoken in opposition to the proposal and 131 comment sheets -- all of which apparently expressed opposition to the plan -- had been turned in to the commissioners.

The proposal is also opposed by a group called Regional Alternatives for Trash (RAFT) which had studied the plan and found evidence to suggest it was flawed in many ways. RAFT also believes that Kootenai County Waste Management's plan, as supported by the commissioners, is motivated by special interest-driven considerations.

RAFT Director Ron Benny read into the record his group's five-part objection to the proposal and the zoning changes that would be required to accommodate the plan.

1. The proposed site would be sited where only 12 percent of the county's trash is generated. A transfer station would be better sited if it were closer to Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene where 83 percent of the trash is generated. The current $multi-million facility is perfectly suited for this function.

2. The proposed site does not qualify for a heavy industrial site. It is not zoned industrial, nor has it ever been zoned industrial. The 60-acre area was intended to be a residential area. RAFT is protesting this proposed site because the county does not seem prepared to follow proper zoning procedures that would qualify this parcel for a solid waste transfer site.

3. The surrounding infrastructure is not adequate to accommodate the high volume traffic on a year round basis, and the increased danger to pedestrians and others. It will cost at least $1.7 million to repave the roads in the area. 54 percent of the traffic from Ramsey Road are haulers. The transfer station would add to already maximum capacity peak traffic periods and would require the installation of at least three more traffic lights.

4. The transfer station master plan calls for removing dumpsters in favor of the manned transfer station site. Removing the dumpsters will likely result in widespread dumping on both federal and state lands. The fire danger will increase.

5. Solid Waste's long term plans are conflicting and incomplete. Solid Waste needs to form long term plans, not conflicting ones such as this.

RAFT suggested an alternative site be located next to the BNSF refueling depot -- another facility that was approved by the commissioners against the wishes of nearly all of the 500,000 people who drink the water under the Rathdrum prairie upon which the train refueling depot sits.

Much to the surprise of the commissioners, Lakes Highway District Official Mark Sauderling said that a preliminary traffic study conducted last year by CH2M Hill was flawed and they could not endorse it. The roads are substandard for the burden that will be placed upon them. Improvements would be costly, Sauderling observed.

Kootenai County Hearing Examiner Gary Young reportedly stated the transfer station does not comply with Kootenai County Ordinance 53.20, and cannot be mitigated to meet the standards of this ordinance. It is and will remain out of compliance with this ordinance.

RAFT attorney Scott Reed, who also represented the Concerned Citizens of Kootenai County in its litigation against the county regarding its provably criminal actions surrounding the infamous jail expansion project, said that for the commissioners to make this decision constitutes a conflict of interest. If a government official has an economic interest in the outcome of his decision, he cannot participate. The commissioners all get their paychecks from Kootenai County, and therefore have an economic interest in the outcome of this decision. Reed threatened to sue them if they make a decision in violation of conflict of interest statutes.

Citizen opposition

Michael Hendrick, who grew up in the area and speaking for his neighbors, said that local residents don't want the trash, smell and heavy industry associated with the transfer site.

Ed Hale agreed with noise and odor inherent with solid waste transfer but added that there are the additional problems of the purity of the aquifer and the methane gas build up from solid waste sites.

Leonard Brandt proposed a couple of alternative sites which he had entered into the record as Exhibit B1004. He suggested that the dumpsters be kept but that they be manned with recycling capabilities. It would still save money over the present proposed site.

The next spokesman said that his property borders the proposed site. He noted that residue from the site would drain directly into the aquifer which is the best aquifer in this area. He has worked for the Forest Service. He had planned to subdivide his property and sell large lots to finance his retirement. However, when he applied for a conditional use permit to allow him to do this, his application was refused because the zoning designation wouldn't allow this kind of development. Now, the commissioners are proposing to drastically change the zoning to allow this transfer station in a rural residential area.

Herb Laughlen, who has lived on N. Ramsey Road for 30 years, noted that the main part of the proposed site is located in the lowest part of the area. He has seen standing water in that area up to six feet. The cost of the land doesn't represent the total cost of the project. In addition to the cost of upgrading the local roads, there is also the cost of the depreciation of the surrounding property. The project proposes putting in a dry well to accommodate the problem of the standing water. A dry well won't work because, he explained, that whole area is a dry well.

Leonard Browning of Spirit Lake stated that if the commissioners approve the transfer station at this site, they will be prosecuted. “It is an asinine idea to pull in garbage from other states and countries. Prisons, medical, and garbage are the biggest industries in the U.S. today. Why is this question even before us here today?” Browning asked.

“There is no doubt now that we are going to pollute the aquifer; the only question remaining is when. By locating this site here and drawing in outside trash, we are only escalating the inevitable. The commissioners should make their decision based on common sense -- not on the dollar,” said Browning.

Several other citizens expressed their opposition. In doing so, they brought up several more sound points that range from property value loss, the disruption of retirement plans and the proposal's incongruity with the county's long-range plans.


Note: The commissioners apparently felt the overwhelming opposition to their choice of a site and have announced that they will not pursue a new location in the county to dump trash -- for now.

It must also be noted that Browning, in his comments, stated something very important: Garbage is big business. As our wasteful society begins to drown in its own refuse, particularly in the big cities, we will scramble desperately for a place to bury our waste. Rather than consciously reduce the amount of garbage we generate, we look to the “experts” to make the problem go away for us without compromising our wasteful lifestyle.

Who are the experts? All across the country, in big towns and small, you see the logo of Waste Management, Inc. This company, which has grown to monopolistic proportions, has been linked in ownership to crime families from Chicago and New York.

So like drugs, prostitution and other vices, garbage is an excellent racket and the intent is to expand the marketplace rather than diminish it. Promote the demand for sex and drugs so the experts can provide the supply; promote the creation of garbage so the experts can hide it for you. (DWH)

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