City Council considers driverless vehicles, trash rate increase at Tuesday meeting

By Jack Mayne

The SeaTac City Council considered and put off for two weeks approval of allowing tests of driverless vehicles in the city. At the Tuesday (Oct. 9) regular session, the lawmakers also adopted some higher rates for recycling services because the international market for paying for recycling America’s trash has dropped lower after China rejected buying out most of our trash.

Council was also asked whether it has “continued interest in maintaining a leadership role in support of the deployment of vehicles with automated driving capabilities on the city’s public roadways.” The consensus was they have interest, had some changes and then put it off for further consideration and perhaps passage at the Oct. 23 meeting.

Ready for autonomous vehicles?
Last year, the city contracted with the Center for Advanced Transportation and Energy Solutions “to develop an action plan with guidance for deploying advanced transportation technologies that have the potential to reduce accidents, emissions and congestion, with the initial focus being on the feasibility of automated mobility services.”

The company, dubbed CATES, conducted a workshop briefing for the Council and the public on June 29, 2018, and discussed what the deployment of autonomous vehicles within the city might mean for citizens and local businesses, and what resources would likely be required from the City of SeaTac.

Public Works Director Will Appleton said the resolution, drafted by CATES, would publicize the fact the city might be interested in developing the idea more fully.

Councilmember Pam Fernald said the city has other priorities that should take precedence over this driverless vehicle proposal.

“Are we actively going to actively participate and encourage and put ourselves out there and spent more taxpayer money and tear up roads to accommodate autonomous vehicles, put our taxi drivers out of work and tale away court (fine income)?” she asked. “I want to know exactly what does this do?”

City is ‘receptive?’
Appleton said the resolution just says the city is receptive of the idea to “this type of technology. That, as we move forward, we are willing to investigate and supportive but it does not commit us, in my opinion … to funding.” It just means staff will bring topics to the attention of the council.

Fernald wanted to amend the resolution to say what Appleton said about the matter rather than the vague way it was proposed. “This is not firm enough,” adding she is not opposed but wants the city protected.

Councilmember Joel Wachtel said he wanted to see if some organizations would like to show the city prospective or test autonomous vehicles while the Council fully fleshed out its new and balanced budget. “Seems clear to me that the is a trend that is on the move … its going to happen and frankly if we can get a piece of it and it doesn’t cost us, that is the place we want to be positioned.”

Councilmember Peter Kwon said the matter can tell developers that the council is interested in examining technology as it develops but not ready to put instant money into the idea.

Recycling cost increase
Council unanimously approved an amendment to the Comprehensive Garbage, Recyclables and Compostables Collection Contract with Recology CleanScapes Inc. The proposed “contract amendment” will result in an approximate increase of $35,000 in franchise fee payments each year.

The new agreement provides for a monthly “temporary sustainability adjustment” for all residences that can be adjusted as markets improve. City staff negotiated an adjustment of $1.35, which is below an earlier proposed range. A monthly “temporary sustainability adjustment” per multi-family and commercial accounts will be adjusted if and when recycling markets improve.

The new amendment will provide a temporary rate increase necessary to allow Recology to continue to provide service at current levels of recycling services because the value of many recycled commodities has collapsed. This SeaTac Council amendment also requires Recology to focus additional resources on identifying and implementing long term solutions regarding recycling issues.

Reducing contamination
The city staff said Recology has been “taking steps towards reducing the amount of contamination of the recyclable materials” that would reduce the speed on their sort line, plus adding staff, and sending material to other markets outside of China.

However, these measures have dramatically increased Recology’s processing costs, while at the same time the value on their separated commodities has dropped by 80 percent. In order to continue offering the same level of service, Recology asked for the temporary rate increase to “make further capital improvements that will reduce contamination in the recycling stream (and thus increasing the value of the commodities) and help them to remain financially viable during this unprecedented market downturn,” said SeaTac city staff.

In other words, find ways to change and control costs of its service to SeaTac residences and businesses.

Indigent legal services
City senior analyst Tim Ramsaur told Council about a potential contract for a contract with the Seattle law firm of Stewart MacNichols Harmell to provide required indigent defense services in the SeaTac Municipal Court.

The matter was placed on the consent calendar agenda which means it likely will not be further discussed and should passed at the Oct. 23 regular meeting.

Ramsaur said individuals charged with a criminal offense and are deemed indigent and unable to pay for their own attorney must get city-paid legal help. The current public defense contract expires at the end of the year and a new contract with Stewart MacNichols Harmell would begin on January 1, 2019.

The city staff figured it would be more efficient and cost effective to charge a flat monthly fee of $14,000 per month for all defense services.

‘This fee would include the compensation for 480 cases per year (40 cases per month average). At the end of the year, the number of cases above or below 480 would adjust the compensation upward or downward by $300 per case,” SeaTac staff said. “The proposed contract has a two-year term, with an option to extend for an additional two-years upon mutual agreement.”

The proposed 2019 – 2020 Budget for indigent defense services is $206,000 per year to cover any additional cases that may result from the hiring of additional police officers. The proposed contract expenditures total $168,000 per year (with 480 cases), which is $38,000 lower than the requested budget amount, said Ramsaur.

Seattle Storm Proclamation
The Council finally presented its proclamation to the Seattle Storm, the WNBA champions for 2018. The Storm and the city delayed the presentation because of scheduling.

Read by “major Storm” fan Mayor Erin Sitterley, the proclamation said, “the Storm players have a strong commitment to team up with youth serving organizations and a community to equip young people skills, desire and confidence to pursue their full potential,” and the Storm hold summer camps and clinics and a summer practice in the city, most recently on July 12 prior to winning the Women’s National Basketball League’s national championship title.

The proclamation was accepted by Storm Senior Vice President Nate Silverman, who noted that the local practice events have been held in SeaTac for people and youth during the past five years.

Replacement for Siefkes
Mayor Erin Sitterley said the city has received an “internal candidate” application for city manager to replace retiring Joe Scorcio, meaning another city employee has opted to apply for the job. Sitterley said a special Council meeting is slated for Wednesday,Nov. 14 at 4 p.m. to “review the qualifications of this candidate” in a closed-door executive session and then hold a “public open house” at 5 p.m. and at 6 p.m. before going back into executive session and then reconvene in public for potential action related to the appointment of this candidate.”

Other previous candidates changed their minds after a person was selected, rejecting the job on the basis of another opportunity. The new “internal candidate” appears to be the only one the Council is considering now.

The Council confirmed the Mayoral re-appointment of Judy Beste and Dennis Anderson, and the appointment of Steve Pinto to the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee, the appointment of Leslie Baker to the Planning Commission, and appointment of Roger Kadeg to the Washington State Department of Commerce Sea-Tac Airport Study Advisory Committee.

Public comment
Judy Williams, a professional tax preparer, said she wanted the city to resolve the number of businesses who are not fully up to date in leases at SeaTac International Center where many occupants apparently pay or fail to pay a lessor of many parcels while others pay individual rents directly to the city. People, said Williams, should “either pay the rent or are not going to be there” and that should be an “ongoing policy.”

She also wanted city staff to inform the Council on the “status of every single lease we have including those we have here in city hall.” She said until recent information, she had never considered that the city would allow lease payments to be in arrears “without saying something.”


One Response to “City Council considers driverless vehicles, trash rate increase at Tuesday meeting”
  1. Don Fanning says:

    So, Recology wants to “up” our recycling fees while at the same time make money on our recycled goods *AND* the city wants more of that “franchise” income which I feel is the most blatant expression of corruption affecting every citizen in every city around our area? I guess people forgot how these “sorting” facilities work. While we may be small potatoes to Seattle’s trash volume, we shouldn’t pay the markup for a for-profit corporation not spending to make their own business more efficient.

    People need to go look on YouTube for “Penn & Teller’s” BS episodes on Recycling.