Clackamas County leaders showed little enthusiasm for a Metro proposal to purchase a 26-acre parcel on the north bank of the Clackamas River for use as a garbage and recycling facility to alleviate capacity concerns at Metro's current facility in Oregon City.
The proposal to purchase the property, 10960 S.E. Jennifer St., in unincorporated Clackamas comes as the county considers the development of the nearby Sunrise Corridor along Highway 212 into a regional industrial hub and major thoroughfare for county traffic. Metro is scheduled to make another presentation to the Oregon City Commission during the city commissioners' 7 p.m. meeting on March 3.
Metro Councilor Christine Lewis was joined by Dan Blue, Metro planning and stewardship manager, and Estee Segal, Metro principal planner and project manager, in making the pitch to the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
According to Blue, Metro's facility known as the South Transfer Station, 2001 Washington St., Oregon City, has a backlog of expensive capital projects necessary to maintain the viability of the facility. Blue said that customers of the facility — both residential and commercial users — currently experience long wait times to drop off loads. The facility also lacks the space to accept commercial food waste or to recover some recyclable materials that end up going to landfills with other waste.
With these limitations in mind, Segal told the board that Metro has been inspired by facilities they've seen built in King County, Washington, over the past decade that include LEED Platinum engineering such as green roofs and rainwater harvesting, as well as built-in opportunities for education like an observation deck for community use.
According to Segal, these facilities in Seattle are surrounded by residential homes and coffee shops, yet offer commercial wet-waste transfer, residential self-haul and expanded recycling services with little impact to the neighborhoods they're located in.
"We see this facility as a critical part of community infrastructure, similar to fire stations and schools, in that it will provide affordable garbage and recycling services to thousands of customers," Segal said. "A new facility would provide much greater operational efficiency, living-wage jobs, greater resilience and flexibility for the future growth of the region. We want to find opportunities to maximize the benefits to the host community, including integrating community facing elements such as waste-related education, meeting spaces and public art."
According to Blue and Segal, Metro is currently in the process of vetting a purchase-sale agreement, investigating the site and performing due diligence. Project managers expect to report their findings to Metro council in early July 2021 with a decision to follow shortly after.
Blue told the board that Metro has already factored the purchase of the property into its capital improvement program budget, but future construction — including design and other costs — would be financed through construction bonds. Blue said Metro is expecting the project to cost between $40 million and $120 million.
County Chair Tootie Smith said she couldn't see a future where Metro issued bonds to cover construction costs and not either raise taxes or the regional dumping fees.
"I think that maybe you're getting the cart ahead of the horse here, because if you're expecting Clackamas County and the region to pay for that, there's only one way that we can pay for this, and that's through a tax increase or a fee increase, and that is substantial."
Commissioner Sonya Fischer questioned what Clackamas County's role would be in this project other than being a stakeholder.
Dan Johnson, director of transportation and development for Clackamas County, replied saying that the county is working collaboratively with Metro to highlight concerns and issues with the project. However, it is a Metro-led effort.
"They will engage our development services group if they go forward, acquire and develop the site," Johnson said. "It is in unincorporated Clackamas County, so they will have to go through the entitlement process through our land-use process, and also through our permitting processes as well."
"But there isn't a decision for this board in approval or denial? Unless it doesn't make it through land use and ends up with us?" Fischer asked.
Johnson replied saying that even through the land-use process, the decision will not land with the board.
Smith said she didn't agree with that, and said the board should make the decision, because it affects every Clackamas County citizen.
"I'm going to be holding on to that, but we'll discuss it later," Smith said.
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