The San Luis Obispo County Regional Waste Management Authority faces an uncertain future. The supervisory board recently voted to withdraw the Integrated Waste Management Authority, or IWMA. Then their interim manager, Paavo Ogren, resigned. KCBX’s Benjamin Purper spoke to San Luis Obispo Tribune reporter Lindsey Holden about his reporting on IWMA.
Purple: Lindsey Holden, reporter for the SLO Tribune, thank you for joining us.
Holden: Thank you for.
Purple: So let’s start with Paavo Ogren, who was briefly acting director of IWMA. Can you tell us about his departure?
Holden: Yes, so Paavo resigned from his post a few weeks ago after the county supervisory board voted to withdraw from IWMA, which is the integrated waste management authority, and his departure occurred. the day after the county’s vote to withdraw from the organization.
Purple: So what then is the current status of IWMA?
HoldenQ .: So the IWMA is a bit buzzing, like my recent story said, because the county’s withdrawal is going to change things quite a bit in terms of organization. They’ll kind of have to figure out where they’re going in terms of membership, whether the seven cities and the various communities that are part of the organization will stay, how their funding structure will continue, and basically how they are. will continue to operate as an organization. They went through a lot of management changes with Pavo leaving, and then their former manager suddenly resigned. So they are trying to figure out how to move forward as an organization.
Purple: How will cities and community service districts, or CSDs, handle waste regulations after IWMA?
Holden: So, IWMA’s job is basically to manage solid waste regulations with the state, making sure that all different communities comply with state waste disposal regulations, and therefore, all the different cities and communities rely on IWMA to do this. They don’t do this in-house with their own staff, and so IWMA does it on an economies of scale basis, so with more members the fees required to pay are cheaper. So they’re going to have to figure that out, and it’s a bit hazy at this point. There was a study the county commissioned to examine the impacts of their departure from IWMA, which only looked at waste rates for unincorporated communities. He did not examine how this would affect taxpayers in cities. So, there are a lot of things outstanding at the moment.
Purple: I understand that the county will have to hire more staff?
Holden: Yes, the county will almost certainly have to hire more staff. The study said they would need about five more staff, but the county public works is now looking into ways to save people money. Hopefully the bills wouldn’t have to go up as much as the study suggested, so that’s also under review right now.
Purple: How could this affect people’s bills?
Holden: I mean, the study showed that unincorporated clients, people who don’t live in areas where they are not in a city or they are not part of a CSD – there is also of CSDs that have not activated their solid waste management authority which includes Los Osos, this is probably the largest CSD that has not yet – so on the low end, this study showed that Residential customers could see their bills increase by 9.7% or $ 3.71 per month. And, on the high end, they could see their bills increase by about 12% or $ 4.63 per month. So it’s fair to the people who would be directly impacted by the county leaving IMWA. In cities, this is not clear at the moment. The study did not show this, but there would probably be a difference because, as I mentioned, economies of scale with fewer members, it could cost the people who are still there dearly.
Purple: So what’s the next step in your report? What are you waiting for next?
Holden: So at the last IWMA meeting there was a lot of frustration from the members who were there. They were quite angry with the county’s decision and were trying to figure out how to move forward. So they decided to look for an interim director for their organization. Right now the deputy director oversees a lot of things, and the county in fact, today at their supervisory board meeting, he’s just trying to set a date to officially step down from the organization, what a lot of members to be clear about – when they leave, how it’s going to be. They are also looking to eventually negotiate receipt of a portion of the funds they have donated over the years to IWMA. So some of the other members were sort of going back down to give them a payment when they leave the organization. So, there is still a lot to decide.
Purple: Okay Lindsey, thank you very much for being with us. I really appreciate this.
Holden: Yes, thank you very much for having me.