Seattle tries to tie up loose ends on hauling contract
The Seattle City Council is scrambling to toughen a contract with PacifiClean Environmental, which won a bid to haul 60,000 tons of Seattle’s food and yard waste each year to Kittitas County.
With no other options months after the bidding process, the council will have to work out something with PacifiClean, a 2-year-old joint venture between the family that owns the composting company Cedar Grove and the firm developing Kirkland’s Google campus, SRM Development.
Last Friday, PacifiClean abruptly scrapped plans for a site near Cle Elum for its new compost plant, after neighbors complained. Now the company is looking for a less controversial, more remote site, but council members will have to accept the company’s assurances without a map or approved permits.
“I think there’s a little bit of a sense that council members have of feeling a little jammed,” said Council President Sally Clark. “This is likely a good proposal, but it’s a little bit of a black box. ... We need to contract with somebody who’s responsible, who’s going to commit and truly meet all of the environmental standards that we care about, and who will be a good neighbor.”
Some council members say they are not entirely comfortable sending compostables over the mountains by truck to an uncertain location.
The contract would start next year and last at least six years, with the option of as many as 10.
The company sent the city a letter, agreeing in writing not to build its new compost plant in a fire-hazard zone, in the Mountains to Sound Greenway, near the Yakima River or near timber. PacifiClean says it’s in negotiations for a site that meets the requirements, though it won’t say where.
The faces of PacifiClean are Jim Rivard, a property developer from Spokane, and Larry Condon, the brother of Spokane’s mayor who recently left his family’s compost plant in an ownership feud.
“SRM Development is one of the most active, environmentally responsible developers in the Puget Sound area,” Rivard, the company’s director of real estate, told council members recently. “This project will also serve to continue and further the city of Seattle’s commitment to carbon neutrality.”
Rivard is a principal at SRM — the R stands for Rivard. His company developed Merrill Gardens in the University District and the new Lyric condominiums on Capitol Hill, among other projects.
For political and environmental credibility on the Kittitas County project, Rivard hired as a consultant Michael Mann, who was director of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment under former Mayor Greg Nickels.
PacifiClean is also depending on the expertise of the Banchero family, which owns half of PacifiClean. Although SRM Development is the managing partner of the new compost venture, Cedar Grove has agreed to accept Seattle’s food and yard waste as a backup plan if PacifiClean’s new plant isn’t completed when the contract starts in April 2014.
The Bancheros have a long history in the garbage industry, starting in the 1930s. They formed Rabanco in 1979, and it grew into a national company.
In 1999, the Bancheros sold their part of Rabanco to Allied Waste and invested in their recycling and compost businesses, Emerald Services and Cedar Grove.
PacifiClean could be a fresh start for the ownership of Cedar Grove, which has been fighting with people who live near its two plants.
Two lawsuits are pending in each place, and an odor study is under way in Everett to determine whether Cedar Grove is responsible for a sickly smell that residents say permeates their neighborhoods when the wind is right.
Cedar Grove didn’t bid on Seattle’s contract. In a statement, the company’s spokeswoman, Susan Thoman, said it wanted to let others invest in the growing compost industry.
They invested in PacifiClean to stay involved, she said.
“This project provides a platform to share extensive operational and management experience acquired over decades of pioneering commercial composting with a new company — also focused on this highly sustainable, growth industry,” she said.