Since 2006, Ada County has spent almost $31 million digging giant holes at the landfill, so we can dump our waste into them and wait for it to decompose. In contrast, we have spent $2 million to purchase site-specific plans for the Dynamis waste-to-energy facility, money that the county will receive back, for the purchase of those plans, before construction starts. There are naysayers who do not understand the science, technology, and landfill purchasing laws, but the project is sound.
Idaho Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell just won the Idaho Press Club’s First Place Award for Environmental Reporting in a Daily Newspaper for her February 15, 2011 article, “Garbage in, electricity out” that tells the story of Dynamis Energy, the Eagle, Idaho, company with whom Ada County has contracted to design a waste-to-energy facility at our landfill.
My opponent would very much like for you to ignore my lengthy record of accomplishments (please see www.sharonu.com) while he talks trash about our Dynamis waste-to-energy project. Yet, he has never taken the time to meet with the Dynamis folks to even attempt to understand the technology or the project. It’s obviously easier for him to cast aspersions about the project (and me) when he is ignorant.
The $2 million dollars we have invested in the Dynamis project are not tax dollars. The landfill does not use tax dollars. It is a self-supporting enterprise fund, solely funded through landfill revenue. In contrast to this expenditure, please keep in mind that Ada County has not taken the allowable three percent property tax increase for six years now. We have left nearly $60 MILLION ($59,982,187) in taxpayers’ pockets, most recently on a 2-to-1 decision. My opponent has been endorsed by the one commissioner who wanted to raise your property taxes. It’s no wonder he wants to try to divert your attention elsewhere, but let’s go ahead and indulge him for a few minutes by looking at his assertions regarding Dynamis.
• My opponent claims we violated the Idaho Open Meeting Law. It is not a violation of the Open Meeting Law for commissioners to meet individually and talk with constituents when there is no contract or issue or application under consideration. Given his lengthy career in corrections, my opponent’s ignorance of the law is concerning.
• My opponent claims we violated state purchasing law. By his own admission, my opponent has read my blog post that clearly states the facts regarding landfill purchasing law, and I have explained the applicable code in person. Even though he has been presented with the facts of the law multiple times, he continues to insist that our actions were contrary to the law. He either fails to understand the law, or he is attempting to willfully mislead the voting public. I have even quoted the applicable law at the end of the same blog post, but still my opponent doesn’t get it. We actually went over and above the legal requirements for landfill purchasing by putting out a Request for Expressions of Interest and, before deciding to contract with Dynamis, had received SEVEN (7) responses. I will continue to take the legal opinion and advice of our elected Ada County Prosecutor and his Chief Civil Deputy (who have a combined total of over 60 years of legal experience) OVER that of my political opponent who has no experience.
• My opponent claims there was a conflict of interest when I worked with our attorney to negotiate the agreement with Dynamis and then was one of three commissioners to approve it. If only we could be so lucky as to have ALL of our elected officials aware of what they were signing onto before they did so, the world would be a better place. (Case in point, Commissioner Vern Bisterfeldt signed both copies of the Dynamis Franchise Agreement, because he routinely signed documents he had not read, although he has voiced nothing but disdain for the project. After it was pointed out to him what it was that he had signed, he insisted that new signature pages be created.) Most of the new contracts presented to the Board for review and approval are written with input from the commissioners. By suggesting that my actions constituted a conflict of interest, my opponent is demonstrating his complete lack of understanding of the responsibilities of the office for which he is running and the appropriate processes through which county business is conducted.
• My opponent claims we should have held hearings before moving forward on this project. The Dynamis project is contingent upon meeting certain funding deadlines and would have been offline altogether if the process was slowed down any further. This project constitutes an ancillary use to the landfill, just like the Fortistar gas-to-energy project, for which hearings were also not held. Interestingly, last summer, we held a public budget hearing on our $193 MILLION county budget and not a single member of the public showed up to testify, not even my opponent or his running mate. This newfound concern over $2 million of the county’s non-tax dollars is solely politically motivated.
• My opponent claims that he doesn’t think the technology will work. Perhaps he will share with us the credentials he holds to make such an assertion? Or perhaps he can even just try to provide us with a sound scientific or technical argument? I happen to know a man with a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wyoming, THE campus where research on the relevant processes was done. I didn’t know this gentleman at the time we signed the contract, but when questions arose about the project, I had him review the design and engineering documents in their entirety and pronounce it sound. In the interest of full disclosure, my expert, Joe Coones, now also happens to be my fiancé. He certainly would have brought to my attention any problems with the technology, had they been there, and he did not. Last week, when I attended a meeting of the Hidden Springs Homeowners’ Association, I mentioned that I had brought an expert with me who could speak to the history and evolution of the technology, but the highly biased moderator did not allow him to speak.
• My opponent claims we should have demanded a performance bond. That would have been nice, but performance bonds are not available on a design project, as this was. Other company assets guarantee Dynamis’ performance.
• My opponent claims we should be working more closely with Republic Services (which already has a trash hauling monopoly in our area – watch for their rates to rise accordingly in the very near future) to recycle trash the old-fashioned way, by pulling things out of it and trying to reuse them. I would rather lead the community into the 21st Century and recycle our waste the cleaner, more efficient way, while producing enough power to serve from 20,000 – 22,000 households a day, while saving a huge amount of space at the landfill, saving money, creating hundreds of construction jobs, 60 permanent jobs, and facilitating tens of millions of dollars of economic investment in our community.
This is NOT new technology, but Dynamis’ engineers have taken what existed and improved upon it. The Wall Street Journal (Los Angeles Waste Management) gets it: “The preferred mode in Europe is to build not a few hugely expensive incineration behemoths but a larger number of smaller, community-based utilities that burn trash to provide electricity and heat through underground conduits. The technology in the newest plants limits toxic emissions of dioxins, a major issue with incinerators of the past, to levels similar to a backyard barbecue’s.” Speaking of emissions, although some folks have expressed environmental concerns about this project, it must necessarily operate within all of the parameters established by EPA and DEQ, as well as meet all permit requirements.
It is apparent from a recent New York Times article that Ada County, Idaho, is ahead of New York City, New York, in implementing clean waste-to-energy projects.
You should be proud you live in Ada County, Idaho, where we are constantly looking for ways in which to operate more efficiently and effectively. Let’s not return ourselves to the dark ages by electing my opponent and his running mate, neither of whom has even bothered to take the time to meet with Dynamis and learn firsthand about the technology and the project. Ada County deserves leaders with vision, the ability to understand the laws of the state, and the ability to make good decisions.