Bernadette Martell, a solid waste attendant, processes a payment at the solid waste transfer station in Coupeville. The county is working to make it so customers can eventually pay with a credit card. To make cash transactions easier, the complex currently rounds fees up to the nearest 50 cents—something public works is also trying to change. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Trash hits fan with rounded dump fees

Island County commissioners recently directed public works to implement credit card usage at the Coupeville Solid Waste Complex. This decision was sparked by the realization that the complex rounds fee totals up to the nearest 50 cents on every transaction.

Commissioners aren’t in agreement with how the fee structure should change with the implementation. A fee would need to be added to cover the costs associated with processing credit cards.

What’s still unclear is what to do for customers who pay in cash.

Public Works Director Bill Oakes presented the commissioners with options to consider, including adding the fee only to credit card transactions and rounding totals paid with cash up or down to the nearest 25 cents.

The facility currently rounds up to make giving change easier, ensuring the costumer and facility employee only have to work with quarters.

Commissioner Jill Johnson expressed strong objections to the idea of rounding up at all.

“You don’t think it’s stealing?” Johnson asked commissioners Rick Hannold and Helen Price Johnson after they said they didn’t have a problem with the idea of rounding up or down because it would even out for the customers over time.

This matter was an apparent point of contention for the commissioners, as Johnson repeatedly asked the other two if they accepted that the station has been rounding up this whole time. At one point Johnson accused Price Johnson of being “afraid to answer the question.”

Another option presented was to have one set price that included the credit card fee, which Oakes said is common at restaurants and retail stores.

Price Johnson voiced support for using one fee for all types of transactions to make the process more “streamlined.” She predicted that once credit cards can be used, that will become the most common form of payment anyway.

The public works department is currently working on writing a request for proposals to find a contractor for this project, according to Joantha Guthrie, manager of the solid waste division.

Guthrie said the goal is to have credit card acceptance implemented at the Coupeville and Camano transfer stations by the first quarter of 2018.