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Survey says … residents would prefer higher dump fee to tax hike

April 14, 2011

Inyo County residents have weighed in on the landfill fee issue, saying they would rather pay more to use local dumps than have hours reduced to close an operating deficit. Some residents said they feel that limiting the hours of operation at the landfills could lead to illegal dumping on public lands. Photo by Mike Bodine

Inyo officials are preparing to decide how to deal with a $600,000 deficit for county integrated waste management.
Inyo County Integrated Waste hosted three public meetings in February, one each in Bishop, Independence and Lone Pine, to discuss the possibility of raising fees or reducing hours at local landfills to help close the budget gap. The meetings were met with little, and in some cases, zero interest from citizens,
In addition to the public meetings, the county distributed surveys asking residents to weigh in on the dump deficit and provide any input they felt was necessary so county leaders could make an informed decision.
Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors reviewed the results of the meetings and surveys and directed Integrated Waste’s Task Force to review the options and present a recommendation to the board in the coming month.
Jeff Ahlstrom, Inyo County Integrated Waste managing landfill engineer, said the county received 107 responses to the survey it distributed.
The seven-question survey asked residents if they preferred increases to gate and disposal fees or a reduction in hours, increases in the county Transient Use Tax or a combination of the three.
According to the survey, more resident prefer an increase in gate and disposal fees over a reduction in services or raise in taxes.
Forty-three percent of the residents who responded to the survey said they supported increases in disposal fees.
On the subject of increased TUT tax, 39 percent of survey respondents said they strongly disagree with any tax hikes and 57 percent said they disagree or strongly disagree with any reduction of hours at the landfills.
Also, 46 percent of the survey respondents said they would support a combination of options to help reduce the deficit for the landfills.
“People seem to understand the necessity here, and many said that it has been a long time since fees have been increased at the landfills,” Ahlstrom said.
According to Ahlstrom. 34 percent of the surveys the county received supported increasing the gate fee at the landfills to $5 while 22 percent were in favor of a $3 fee and 31 percent were in favor of a $4 gate fee.
Many residents also responded to the survey by telling Integrated Waste to increase charges to commercial waste haulers.
Dale Comontofski, owner of Preferred Septic and Disposal, asked the Board of Supervisors to decide quickly if rates for commercial waste haulers will be raised and how much that fee increase will be as he is currently planning to renew several large contracts.
Comontofski said his company needs to know what any rate increases will look like before renewing those contracts so he can adjust the contracts accordingly.
He said the majority of his contracts will be up some time in June.
First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius said she understands Comontofski’s concerns, and hopes the county can reach an agreement about the rates as soon as possible because, in addition to local waste hauler’s needs to renew contracts, Integrated Waste Management is operating at a deficit.
The Board of Supervisors directed Integrated Waste to meet with its task force, which includes local waste haulers, Integrated Waste Manager Chuck Hamilton, Fifth District Supervisor Richard Cervantes and representatives of the City of Bishop, to draft a proposal of what fee increases would look like.
That proposal will be brought before the board for review by May 3 and will return May 10 for approval.

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