New Exchange Could Be Open Next Summer

“Barring major problems, I think we will open the doors by next summer,” says Pete Moe, Executive Director of Orcas Recycling Services (ORS). “For the first time since the fire, I am confident enough to put a timeline on it.”

That confidence comes from the agreement that has emerged over the past few months between ORS and San Juan County.

The County has agreed to build the “shell” of the new Exchange building—a pole-frame metal clad structure—while leaving all the interior build-out to ORS.

“Before we reached this agreement, we were looking at very steep fundraising mountain to climb. Now we feel like we can get started,” says Moe.

The County has pledged up to $600,000 to finance the shell project, which includes $150,000 in grant funding. The rest will come from the Capital Facilities budget, as needed. ORS will be required to complete the build-out of the facility to “occupancy” level of the building code.

The construction of the shell is being managed by San Juan County Public Works. They are currently developing a Request For Proposals (RFP) that should go out to interested contractors in October. Typically it takes eight weeks to select a contractor. Construction should begin shortly thereafter.

“Once construction starts, it should go really quickly,” says Moe. “These metal buildings go up fast.”

The idea that the County would build the structure originated with the County Council, explains Moe. He says that former Councilwoman Patty Miller suggested it to Councilman Rick Hughes, who took the idea and ran with it.

“We are really excited for the Orcas community that this deal came together,” says Hughes. “ORS has done an awesome job running the transfer station. The Exchange project furthers this incredible public/private cooperation.”

According to County manager Mike Thomas it’s a great deal for the County. “This is not a give-away to ORS,” he says. “The County gets an important permanent community facility that will be paid for through the lease with ORS.”

“We struggled with the implications of owning a building on the County’s property financed with donated funds,” says ORS Board President Tim Blanchard. “A rental arrangement with the County makes much more sense. We owe Patty Miller for the inspiration and want to thank Rick Hughes, Bob Jarman and Jamie Stevens for seeing the wisdom of this approach and making it happen.”

ORS is quick to point out that this does not mean they are done fundraising for the new Exchange. “While we have raised significant funds over the past few years, we are going to have to spend a lot on the build-out and all necessary preparations to open the doors to the public,” says Moe. In addition to the costs of interior construction, fixtures and equipment and utilities, ORS also intends to build a fund for contingencies and initial operating capital.

“We have no idea what our revenue stream will look like at The Exchange, or how long it will take us to process the initial ‘tsunami’ of donated material that’s been building up in garages and storage sheds all over the island.” Moe promises that every islander will see a fundraising effort later this year, and invites the public to donate online.

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