To tip or not to tip?

This week marked the third time in three months that the Clark County Commissioners have discussed county septic fees.

I’ve had the pleasure of sitting through each of those meetings and have heard hours of discussion about tipping fees, septic tank failures, pumping and inspections.

Last month, the commissioners, serving in their role as the Clark County Board of Health, approved dozens of changes to environmental public health fees – modifying all but the septic fees.

On Wednesday, the commissioners continued the discussion on the septic fees.

The county currently charges a tipping fee of 6 cents per gallon pumped and a reporting fee of $20. Those fees are on top of whatever the company performing the work charges the resident.

Commissioner Tom Mielke has said numerous times he doesn’t believe the county should be charging a tipping fee.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Clark County Public Health Deputy Director Marni Storey was on hand to provide an overview of two proposals on the table – both of which were on the table two months ago.

One would eliminate the county inspection and tipping fees and impose a $16.50 flat fee onto property taxes of the 34,000 Clark County residents with septic systems.

The other proposal would increase the county’s tipping fee from 6 cents per gallon pumped to 11 cents per gallon and increase the reporting fee from $20 to $28.

But before Storey could get five words out, Mielke interrupted.

“We’re supposed to be charging for services we provide. We keep trying to charge for things we don’t do,” Mielke said.

“I’m not understanding why we have these fees,” he said before rattling off more questions.

Commissioner Steve Stuart suggested Mielke wait for the presentation, which would likely answer many of his questions.

After the presentation, Mielke and Storey engaged in a sort of “Who’s on first?” comedy routine.

Mielke wanted to know who answers the phones when people call the complaint line with questions and concerns regarding septic systems. (The program is one of many things the tipping and reporting fees pay for)

Storey explained how the complaint system worked and from which budget the funds come.

Stuart interjected and said he supported the proposal to implement a $16.50 flat fee. The change would reduce the cost to septic owners.

“We have an opportunity to lower the cost people are paying, period,” Stuart said.

Mielke wasn’t convinced.

“I have a problem with another fee to balance the budget,” Mielke said.

“This is not a new fee,” Stuart countered.

Stuart explained, again, that the flat fee would replace the dreaded tipping fee and inspection reporting fee.

“This will save you money,” Stuart told Mielke.

At that point, the lightbulb above Mielke’s head lit up.

After being reassured by Stuart that the tipping fee and inspection fee would disappear, Mielke seemed to agree with the proposal.

“For me, it seems like we’ve come 180 degrees,” Mielke said.

Throughout the meeting, Commissioner Marc Boldt stayed relatively quiet, asking only a couple questions of the county health staff.

As he walked out of the meeting, though, he had just two words for an audience member: “I’m exhausted.”

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