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AGLO 1970 No. 015 - January 29, 1970
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington
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                                                                 January 29, 1970
 
 
 
County Road Administration Board
106 Maple Park
Olympia, Washington 98501
                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1970 No. 15
 
 
Attention:  !ttErnest Geissler, PE
            Administrative Engineer
 
Dear Sir:
 
            This is written in response to your request for an opinion of this office on several questions which we paraphrase as follows:
 
            (1) May a board of county commissioners expend current expense funds for the maintenance and operation of garbage disposal sites?
 
            (2) May the board of county commissioners of other than a class A or class AA county expend county road funds for the maintenance and operation of garbage disposal sites?
 
            (3) May the board of county commissioners of other than a class A or class AA county expend from both the county road fund and the current expense fund for the maintenance and operation of garbage disposal sites?
 
            (4) May class A and class AA counties expend road funds for garbage purposes?
 
            We answer questions (1), (2) and (3) in the affirmative and question (4) in the negative.
 
                                                                     ANALYSIS
 
            Boards of county commissioners have only such powers as have been granted to them expressly or by implication by the Constitution or the statutes of the state.  Sasse v. King County, 196 Wash. 242, 82 P.2d 536 (1938).
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
            The power of the county commissioners in regard to garbage disposal sites is found in RCW 36.58.010 and 36.58.020, the pertinent parts providing as follows:
 
            "Any board of county commissioners may acquire by purchase or by gift, dedication, or donation, garbage sites for the use of the public in disposing of garbage and refuse."  (RCW 36.58.010)
 
            and
 
            "Any board of county commissioners . . . may provide for the maintenance and care thereof . . ." (RCW 36.58.020)
 
            In a previous opinion of our office, AGO 55-57 No. 245 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Clallam County]], dated April 9, 1956, we held that it was not only the power of the board of county commissioners to provide garbage disposal sites, but under RCW 36.32.120 (7) it was their duty to provide for sites for the public health of the inhabitants of the counties.
 
            It is a general rule that ordinary expenses of county government are to be paid out of the county's current expense fund unless other provisions are made by the legislature.  See, AGO 63-64 No. 76 [[to C. W. "Red" Beck, State Representative on December 19, 1963]]and AGO 65-66 No. 61 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Stevens County on December 21, 1965]], and other authorities cited therein.
 
            Prior to 1967, no other pertinent statutes provided otherwise.
 
            In 1967, the legislature, by §§ 1 and 2, chapter 218, Laws of 1967, codified as RCW 36.82.240 and 36.82.245, provided that the several boards of county commissioners (other than those of class A or class AA counties), were authorized to expend one percent (1%) of the county road fund tax levy and to rent county road equipment for the maintenance and operation of garbage disposal sites.  The pertinent provisions of said statutes read as follows:
 
            RCW 36.82.240:
 
            "The boards of county commissioners of the several counties of the state of Washington are hereby authorized to expend up to one percent of the county road fund tax levy, and to rent county road equipment from the county road equipment rental and  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] revolving fund for the maintenance and operation of garbage disposal sites within the county:  Provided, That the provisions of this section shall not apply to class A or class AA counties."  (Emphasis supplied)
 
            RCW 36.82.245:
 
            "The use of county road fund tax levy and the rental of county road equipment for the maintenance and operation of garbage disposal sites is hereby declared to be a county road purpose."1/
 
             The intent of the legislature must be taken from the statutory language itself, and only when the language is ambiguous can there be other construction applied.  State v. Houck, 32 Wn.2d 681, 203 P.2d 693 (1949).
 
            RCW 36.82.240 is not a mandatory statute, but is a permissive statute.  It authorizes the boards of county commissioners ‑ except those of class A or class AA counties ‑ to expend the one percent (1%) of the county road fund tax levy and to rent equipment from the rental and revolving fund for the purpose of maintenance and operation of garbage disposal sites.  However, nothing contained therein makes this the exclusive source of such expenditures.


 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]
            It is, therefore, the opinion of our office that the boards of county commissioners of the several counties of the state other than class A or class AA counties can expend either current expense funds, to an unlimited amount, or county road funds, up to one percent (1%) of the tax levy, or from both funds as limited for the maintenance and operation of garbage disposal sites.
 
            The final question to be answered is whether or not class A and class AA counties of the state are empowered to utilize road funds and equipment for garbage purposes.  The provisions of RCW 36.82.240 state as follows:
 
            ". . .  Provided, That the provisions of this section shall not apply to class A or class AA counties."
 
            This proviso limits the complete provisions of the main portion of RCW 36.82.240, which authorizes the utilization of road funds and equipment for garbage purposes, and clearly and unequivocally limits the authorization to use one percent (1%) county road funds and equipment for garbage disposal sites to counties other than class A and class AA.  As was stated earlier in this opinion, RCW 36.58.010 and 36.58.020 make it a current expense fund duty to purchase and operate garbage sites, unless other authority is granted.  It is our opinion that in regards to class A and class AA counties, there is no authorization to utilize road funds for this purpose.
 
            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
 
Very truly yours,
 
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
 
 
Keith D. McGoffin
Special Assistant
Attorney General
 
 
                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***
 
1/Prior to the enactment of chapter 218, county road funds could only be expended as set forth in RCW 36.82.070, which provided as follows:
 
            "Any money paid to any county from the motor vehicle fund may be used for the construction, alteration, repair, improvement, or maintenance of county roads and bridges thereon and for wharves necessary for ferriage of motor vehicle traffic, and for ferries, and for the acquiring, operating, and maintaining of machinery, equipment, quarries, or pits for the extraction of materials, and for the cost of establishing county roads, acquiring rights of way therefor, and expenses for the operation of the county engineering office, and for any other proper county road purpose.  . . ."
 
            and could not be used for maintenance and operation of garbage sites.
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