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Lynnwood explores new waste and recycling options

LYNNWOOD – The City of Lynnwood Public Works laid out a possible 7-year plan to update the city’s waste and recycling program during the city council meeting on June 8, 2021.

Lynnwood currently operates under the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission (WUTC). According to Public Works Director Bill Franz, when cities annex, they are able to leave the WUTC system to contract directly with a waste hauler or provide their own services. For reasons unknown to Franz, Lynnwood stayed in the system after incorporating in 1959.

The solid waste and recycling presentation was given by Lynnwood Public Works Manager Marcie MacQuarrie. The main issue MacQuarrie highlights is a lack of control over the contracts with the haulers. The city is unable to address customer service issues and complaints, negotiate rates, or implement discount or extra pickup programs. Whenever they get contacted by the community, they are really only able to direct them to the WUTC or the hauler.

“Community members don’t understand that we don’t manage our garbage hauler contracts,” MacQuarrie said. “We can call the WUTC or call the hauler and ask them to help them out, but we really don’t have any control because we’re not under contract with them.”

The WUTC system has also resulted in there being two haulers for Lynnwood. Residents on the west side of Highway 99 are under Republic Services, while the east side are under Waste Management NW. MacQuarrie states that managing their own contract can limit that to one provider.

“It is odd that we have two different haulers in Lynnwood. That we’re on this kind of older system really designed for more unincorporated areas,” Franz said during the meeting.

Most cities have chosen to leave the WUTC. Of course unincorporated areas of Snohomish County are still under WUTC, but the only other cities are Edmonds, Everett, Brier and half of Lake Stevens. Lake Stevens recently went through an annexation, so this half is currently in the 7-year process of leaving the WUTC. Bothell, Mountlake Terrace, Kirkland, Mukilteo, Shoreline, Mill Creek, Snohomish, Stanwood and the other half of Lake Stevens are no longer under the WUTC.

There are some challenges beyond the timeline for leaving the WUTC—such as staffing, bidding and drafting a contract—but the ability to customize a contract to Lynnwood’s needs does have merit. It should be noted that some council members did not appear to be completely sold on the idea, so there will be continued discussion on the matter.

“We think that to make that first declaration and pass an ordinance and start that process is really fairly low risk, if not very low risk because we’re not committed until the end of year 5,” Franz said. “It allows us to get right out to the community and start finding out what people really think and would like.”

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