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County trying to dig up input on dump deficit options

March 11, 2011

Inyo County Integrated Waste Manager Chuck Hamilton and Managing Landfill Engineer Jeff Ahlstrom (background) outline several plans that could close the budget gap for local landfills at a community meeting in Lone Pine. Photo by Mike Gervais

Inyo County Integrated Waste is facing a half-million dollar operating deficit this year and is looking for residents to help decide how to solve the budget shortfall.
During an almost empty public meeting in Lone Pine on Wednesday, Jeff Ahlstrom, managing landfill engineer, laid out six plans that would close the projected $592,874 gap. Those plans include three basic strategies to save on costs and generate more revenue, ranging from fee hikes to layoffs to reductions in services.
Ahlstrom said the solution to Integrated Waste’s budget shortfall will likely be a combination of two, or even all three, strategies, depending on what residents would like to see happen.
The first option Ahlstrom laid out, Option A, is a combination of raising fees and reducing services and implementing layoffs.
Option A would include increasing the gate fees at local landfills from $2 to $5, generating approximately $180,000 a year, and implementing new and raising existing disposal fees for items such as commercial grass clippings, animal carcasses and tire disposal, which would generate approximately $165,000 annually.
Option A would also eliminate two gate attendant positions and one equipment operator, reducing the number of days landfills are open, but saving the department $191,037 in salaries and benefits, $38,400 in utility and fuel costs due to reduced days of operation, and $9,000 in hauling costs from the Big Pine Transfer Station.
Due to the reduction in staffing under Option A, Integrated Waste would operate the Lone Pine Landfill three days a week (instead of five), the Independence Landfill two days a week (instead of five), the Big Pine Transfer Station three days a week (instead of five) and the Bishop Sunland Landfill five days a week (instead of seven).
Ahlstrom said Option A would save Integrated Waste a total of $583,437 a year, leaving the department with a $9,437 deficit.
Option B would implement the same layoffs and reduction of services and miscellaneous disposal fees and set the gate fee at landfills at $6 per vehicle, generating $240,000 a year. That option would give Integrated Waste a surplus of $50,563.
Option C would not include any reduction in services or layoffs, but would increase the gate fee to $10 per vehicle and raise miscellaneous disposal fees, generating about $605,000 a year and leaving Integrated Waste with a $12,126 surplus.
Option D, as laid out by Ahlstrom, is a combination of the $10 gate fee, increased miscellaneous fees and a reduction in staff and services.
Under Option D, the Big Pine Transfer Station would operate three days a week, reducing hauling costs by $9,000 and eliminating one gate operator, creating a salary and benefits savings of $57,928 annually.
In all, the increased fees and reduced staff and hours would generate $671,928 in revenue and savings, giving the department a surplus of $79,054.
Option E would eliminate two gate attendants and one equipment operator and greatly reduce services.
Under Option E, Integrated Waste would operate the Lone Pine Landfill two days a week, the Independence Landfill one day a week and the Big Pine Transfer Station two days a week, creating a savings of $12,000 in hauling fees and $38,400 in fuel and utilities.
Again, the elimination of the three positions would create a salary and benefits saving of about $191,037.
The Bishop-Sunland Landfill would operate three days a week, creating a savings of $133,1099.
In total, Option E would generate about $126,000 in surplus for the department, but may create congestion at each of the landfills due to the reduced hours of operation.
The final proposal Integrated Waste laid out Wednesday, Option F, would cover the deficit without any layoffs or reductions in services.
Under Option F, Ahlstrom proposes increasing the gate fee to $5, generating $180,000, and implement the new and increased fees for miscellaneous items, generating $165,000. Option F would also implement a new waste hauler compact truck fee for commercial businesses that would generate $295,000, just enough to cover the deficit.
Another community meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 16 at Bishop City Hall to gather public input.
Residents are also invited to pick up a survey at local landfills to provide input on the above options. All surveys must be returned to Integrated Waste by Wednesday, March 16.

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