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Pierce County Housing Authority v. Murrey''s Disposal Co.

October 11, 1996

PIERCE COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY, A WASHINGTON MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, RESPONDENT,
v.
MURREY'S DISPOSAL COMPANY, INC., APPARENTLY D/B/A MURREY'S DISPOSAL CO., INC., A WASHINGTON CORPORATION; HAROLD LEMAY ENTERPRISES, INCORPORATED, APPARENTLY D/B/A LEMAY ENTERPRISES, INC., A WASHINGTON CORPORATION; UNIVERSITY PLACE REFUSE SERVICE, INC., APPARENTLY D/B/A UNIVERSITY PLACE REFUSE SERVICE, A WASHINGTON CORPORATION; AMERICAN DISPOSAL COMPANY, INC., APPARENTLY D/B/A AMERICAN DISPOSAL CO., INC., A WASHINGTON CORPORATION; LAKEWOOD REFUSE SERVICE, INC., APPARENTLY D/B/A LAKEWOOD REFUSE SERVICE, A WASHINGTON CORPORATION; THE WASHINGTON UTILITIES AND TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION, A WASHINGTON STATE AGENCY, APPELLANTS.



Appeal from Superior Court of Pierce County. Docket No: 94-2-08056-9. Date filed: 02/21/95. Judge signing: Hon. Terry D. Sebring.

Released for Publication May 2, 1997.

Authored by Carroll C. Bridgewater. Concurring: J. Dean Morgan, Elaine M. Houghton

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bridgewater

BRIDGEWATER, J. -- Murrey's Disposal Company, Inc., along with other private garbage collection companies (Haulers), appeal a grant of partial summary judgment and declaratory judgment allowing the Pierce County Housing Authority (PCHA) to haul and collect solid waste from its own buildings without obtaining a certificate from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC). Because one of the express purposes in creating Housing Authorities is to provide sanitary dwellings for persons of low incomes, we hold that the authority to manage and operate housing projects includes the authority to collect and haul garbage from its own housing facilities. Additionally, we hold that the PCHA is not subject to WUTC supervision because the PCHA is not primarily in the business of transporting solid waste. We affirm.

The PCHA is one of the public housing authorities established in RCW 35.82 for the purpose of "making safe and sanitary housing available to low income persons." *fn1 A housing authority is prohibited from operating for profit and must fix the rentals at the "lowest possible rates consistent with its providing decent, safe and sanitary dwelling accommodations." *fn2 Each year, the PCHA pays over $300,000 to private garbage companies. It ran a feasibility study, which concluded that, by using its own employees, dumpsters, and garbage trucks, the PCHA could collect and haul the garbage from its own facilities for 40 percent or $120,000 less than the amount charged by the private garbage companies. But the PCHA's preparation for a self-hauling operation caught the attention of the Haulers, who then told the PCHA that it was subject to the "Solid Waste Collection Companies" statute, RCW 81.77. That statute is enforced by the WUTC and requires that all solid waste collection companies be certified by the WUTC. Under the Haulers's threat to sue, PCHA filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment against the WUTC and the Haulers to establish its authority to service its own housing units free of WUTC regulation. The trial court granted PCHA's partial summary judgment.

The issue is whether the trial court's grant of summary judgment was based upon a correct interpretation of the relevant statutes. In reviewing an order of summary judgment, the appellate court engages in the same inquiry as the trial court. *fn3 Summary judgment should be granted only if, given all of the evidence, reasonable persons could reach but one Conclusion. *fn4 And, because the question concerns the proper construction of statutes, we review the trial court's Conclusion de novo. *fn5

Our primary objective in interpreting a statute is to ascertain and give effect to the Legislature's intent as manifested in the statute's express language. *fn6 Legislative intent is derived from the statutory context as a whole. *fn7 "Absent ambiguity or a statutory definition, words in a statute should be given their plain and ordinary meaning." *fn8 "Every word, clause, and sentence of a statute [should] be given effect, if possible." *fn9

A. Authority

Our analysis of the Housing Authority statute begins with RCW 35.82.010, which explains why housing authorities were created. Throughout that statute, the Legislature expresses its concern with a shortage of, and a need to provide, sanitary dwelling accommodations for low income persons. Thus, it mandated that "each housing authority shall manage and operate its housing projects in an efficient manner so as to enable it to fix the rentals for low-income dwelling accommodations at the lowest possible rates consistent with its providing decent, safe and sanitary dwelling accommodations." *fn10

In order to assure that housing authorities can achieve this purpose, the Legislature grants to housing authorities "all the powers necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this chapter." *fn11 It also expressly authorizes housing authorities to "operate housing projects," which are defined in RCW 35.82.020(9) as including "any work or undertaking . . . to provide decent, safe and sanitary . . . living accommodations." *fn12

While holding this broad grant of power, the PCHA, being a municipal corporation, "is limited in its powers to those necessarily or fairly implied in or incident to the powers expressly granted, and also those essential to the declared objects and purposes of the corporation." *fn13 Those purposes are to provide sanitary and low-cost accommodations. One of the central problems in providing sanitary conditions is garbage collection and removal. Thus, a plain reading of the statutes leads to only one Conclusion -- that Housing Authorities have the authority to collect and haul solid waste from their projects. Further, the efforts made by the PCHA in its feasibility study and in its attempt to service its own projects are not only consistent with the requirement in RCW 35.82.080 to provide "sanitary dwelling accommodations," but essential, especially if the PCHA is to provide the lowest possible rates. The trial court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of the PCHA.

B. Solid Waste Collection Company

The Haulers contend that, if the PCHA has the power to self-haul, then it fits into one of the three categories of "solid waste collection companies" that are regulated by the WUTC under RCW 81.77. *fn14

The term "solid waste collection company" is defined in RCW 81.77.010(7) as a "person . . . operating or managing vehicles used in the business of transporting solid waste for collection and/or disposal for compensation." The Washington Administrative Code states that the phrase "the business of transporting solid waste for collection and/or disposal for compensation" applies only to carriers who are primarily in the specialized business of transporting solid waste for collection. *fn15 The parties agree that the PCHA is not primarily in the specialized business of transporting solid waste. First, it is not engaged in a garbage-hauling "business" because it is prohibited from making a profit. The self-hauling proposed by the PCHA is not a business run for compensation, but an in-house performance of a task required to maintain the Housing Authority's own facilities, using its own equipment and personnel. Second, garbage collection ...


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