Fine-free libraries, zero-fare Olympia buses and other changes coming to region in 2020

By Abby Spegman

The Olympian

New year, new… rules?

Jan. 1 will bring changes to local life. Here are some things to watch out for.

Timberland goes fine-free

Timberland Regional Library’s board voted in December to stop charging fines for late returns starting Jan. 1. Existing fines for late returns will also be wiped out in the new year.

The change does not affect fines for lost or damaged items. Due dates will still apply; items overdue more than 28 days will be considered lost and the user will be charged a replacement fee if he or she doesn’t return the item.

The move is meant to encourage people who are staying away because they owe money to come back to the libraries. It comes as other library systems throughout the country are dropping fines in hopes of increasing circulation.

The Nisqually Valley News reports fines were expected to bring in $242,000 in 2019, down about 10 percent from the previous year thanks to the rise of digital checkouts that return automatically.

Timberland Regional Library serves Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific and Thurston counties with more than two dozen branches.

Also in 2020, the library plans to reopen the Olympia branch, which has been closed since November for renovations, in early February. The Lacey branch is slated to close for renovations in the fall.

Olympia transit stops collecting fares

Something else that won’t cost you money in 2020: riding Intercity Transit. At least, not when you get on a bus.

IT, which offers bus service throughout Thurston County, will stop collecting fares on buses Jan. 1. The change also applies to Dial-A-Lift, a door-to-door service for people with disabilities.

Voters in 2018 approved a sales tax increase to fund what IT leaders billed as transformational changes for the system, including ways to speed up service.

IT says fares currently net less than 2 percent of its operating revenue, while replacing an outdated fare collection system would cost at least $1 million.

Coming later in 2020: a new route to serve growing northeast Lacey. Route 65/Hawks Prairie is scheduled to begin March 22 and will connect with existing high-frequency service on Martin Way and at the Lacey Transit Center.

Curbside recycling cuts glass in Olympia

Glass and plastic coated cartons will no longer be accepted in Olympia’s curbside recycling bins starting Jan. 1. While glass can be dropped off at collection sites, the cartons should go in the trash, the city says.

The changes are only for city of Olympia customers. LeMay’s curbside recycling in Thurston County will continue to accept glass in separate bins.

Olympia’s changes are linked to China’s recently crackdown on imported recyclables, which decreased the value of materials and made recycling more expensive. They come at the request of Pioneer Recycling Services, which sorts recyclables collected in Olympia and other Thurston County cities.

Olympia plans to collect glass bottles and jars at three locations starting Jan. 1: at Yauger Park on Alta Street Southwest on the west side, at the city’s drop-off recycling center on 10th Avenue Southeast, and at Concrete Recyclers on Black Lake Boulevard Southwest in Tumwater.

Glass already is accepted at the county’s Waste and Recovery Center in Hawks Prairie.

City officials have said they expect to save $90,000 to $170,000 a year by collecting glass at drop-off sites.

Car seats, tobacco and minimum wage

State laws going into effect Jan. 1 include stricter car seat regulations and an increase in the minimum wage.

Starting Jan. 1, children under 2 years old must be in a rear-facing car seat, while children ages 2 to 4 must be in a car seat with a harness. Children who are older than 4 and who have outgrown a car seat must use a booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.

The minimum wage will increase from $12 to $13.50 an hour, the last of four increases that voters approved via ballot measure back in 2016.

Lastly, a state law raising the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 goes into effect Jan. 1, days after a federal law already effectively raised the age.

Congress inserted a provision raising the purchase age into an emergency spending bill signed by the president Dec. 20. That went into effect immediately.

The change comes as teens report growing use of vaping products with nicotine. Thurston County Public Health and Social Services reports one in three Thurston County high school seniors use vaping products, according to a 2018 survey, and kids who vape are more likely to start smoking cigarettes.