Candidates for the Yakima County Board of Commissioners gathered Thursday at the Civic Center in Terrace Heights to answer a series of questions from the Yakima Republican Women’s Club, which hosted the forum.

Candidates were asked their stance on the usual topics: crime prevention, water issues and water rights, the county’s operating budget, and the state’s growth management law.

But a problem arose that wasn’t included in the forum’s original program: the Rocky Top landfill site on the flanks of Cowiche Mountain, just west of Yakima.

There, a limited-use landfill owned and operated by DTG Recycle recently made facility expansions that drew the ire of residents and the attention of regulators. Landfill property overlaps with the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, which oversees many trails and natural habitats in the area.

There are six candidates in three commissioner races ahead of the general election in November. In District 1, Republican businessman Kyle Curtis takes on former Yakima City Councilman Dulce Gutierrez, a Democrat. In District 2, incumbent Amanda McKinney, a Republican, is being challenged by written candidate Angie Girard, a Democrat. And in District 3, incumbent LaDon Linde takes on retired Command Sergeant Major Steve Saunders, both Republicans.

Gutierrez was the only candidate not to attend Thursday’s forum.

All the candidates present agreed that the fight against the increase in crime is a top priority, that the budget must be closely monitored, that water rights must be protected within reasonable limits and that the law on growth management – ​​which governs rural development – ​​might need updating and retooling, although their views on solutions varied.

But the sharpest discussion was from Rocky Top, which is in the McKinney District.

Neighbors are complaining about dust, odors and other issues they say are caused by increased landfill activity and are worried about what their future expansion plans might mean for the environment.

McKinney told the crowd of around 50 that the business is properly licensed and has the right to operate, even though neighbors may not like it.

“Nobody wants to have a landfill in their garden, but we need landfills and this landfill is already approved,” she said. “And you could talk to the planning department and they’ll tell you there could be a lot of other things (located there) that the neighbors wouldn’t want there.”

McKinney said there must be a balance between ensuring the landfill meets regulations while protecting neighbors’ rights and safeguarding conservation.

She said she helped arrange a meeting with all parties, including neighbors, after learning they were not communicating with each other.

“What I can say is they’re talking now and that’s what they need to do,” she said.

Curtis, who sits on the county’s planning commission, asked why the county isn’t assessing a tax on waste disposed of by businesses outside the county.

There have been complaints about DTG accepting waste from other counties on the west side of the state.

“I would say what piqued my interest is why does our county attract large corporations to come and bring their waste to our county?” Curtis wondered.

He said the county should charge an additional tax for shipments from outside the county.

“I think there could be an opportunity in a win-win to address community concerns, but also bring in a new source of revenue for the county and potentially help (fund) roads and so on. sequel,” Curtis said.

Girard agreed that there needs to be a lot of communication and collaboration between all parties. She also agreed with Curtis.

“There should be out-of-county landfill fees because it attracts a lot of landfills from outside the county and it’s a way to raise revenue and pay for some of the issues in that area,” she said.

Saunders likened the issue to a complaint he received from a caller about the smell caused by dairies.

The caller said he just moved in last year.

“I was like, ‘Well, it’s kind of like if you buy a house under an airport or next to an airport, there will be planes,'” Saunders said. “For me, it’s the same type of problem.”

Saunders said people should consider the area before moving there.

“Again, know where you’re buying from,” he said. “Don’t buy next to a landfill.”

Linde, a former dairyman, echoed McKinney’s sentiments about bringing all parties together and talking before changing his response to complaints about dairies.

He said the dairy industry has an opportunity to work with a private company that wants to use a digester to convert cow manure into renewable energy.

“So I’m really optimistic that this could be a real solution in this area,” he said.