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Fee going up at local landfills

April 27, 2011

County leaders are working out the finer details of how to close a $695,000 budget gap in Integrated Waste by raising dumping fees. In addition to gate and disposal fees, the county hopes to raise rates for commercial waste haulers. Photo by Mike Bodine

Before county staff members develop a final resolution concerning increased fees at local landfills the Inyo County Board of Supervisors wanted to weigh in one last time.
The board met Tuesday with Integrated Waste Manager Chuck Hamilton and two local solid waste service providers to hammer out some of the finer details about what dump fees will be raised to close a $695,000 Integrated Waste Department deficit.
The board agreed to raise the gate fee at local landfills from $3 to $5, which Hamilton said would generate approximately $180,000. The board also voted to raise miscellaneous disposal fees, for things such as animal carcasses and tires, which will generate an additional $165,000.
The board also agreed to increase fees to commercial waste haulers, charging them $3 per cubic yard of garbage, which will bring in about $250,000.
“Even with these increases, we are still charging less than our neighboring communities,” Hamilton said, adding that any resident who has purchased gate passes at the current rate will be able to use those passes until they expire.
When the board discussed increasing franchise fees for commercial waste haulers, it ran into trouble finding the best way to do so.
All five board members agreed that the county could close the budget gap by charging a franchise fee of between 5 and 10 percent of each commercial waste haulers’ gross sales.
Both local commercial waste haulers said they supported the board’s decision to raise fees, but each had a different idea about how to regulate the franchise fee.
Preferred Septic and Disposal owner Dale Comontofski recommended that the Board of Supervisors set a “floor” or minimum rate for commercial waste hauling services within the county.
Comontofski said that, if the county were to set a minimum rate, it would know what kind of money it could expect to generate from its franchise fee, because it would set the rate for services.
“If there is not a set floor fee, then the 10 percent franchise fee will waiver month-to-month,” Comontofski said, adding that the county and commercial waste haulers would have an easier time of drafting their respective budgets if a minimum charge was set.
“Having a minimum budgeting amount is important for the county,” First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius agreed.
Michelle Erwin of Bishop Waste Disposal said she was not in favor of setting a minimum charge for commercial waste services.
Erwin said that setting a floor for businesses takes the competition out of business because it prohibits companies from offering discounts to clients who purchase large contracts.
“I’m in support of having a charge,” Erwin said, “but I have a problem with taking away competition.”
Comontofski said that, if a commercial waste hauler were to offer discounts, the county would lose money from that businesses franchise fee.
Hamilton suggested that the county retain its current policy that sets a ceiling on commercial waste hauler charges in areas where there is no competition to prevent a monopoly situation where one business can charge whatever they want, while incorporating a floor for charges in areas where there is competition.
While all five members of the board agreed that they would rather not have the county dictating rates to private businesses, Fourth District Supervisor Marty Fortney pointed out that commercial waste haulers do a job that directly intersects with public service. Arcularius added that their job also deals with public health concerns.
Ultimately the board directed staff to draft an ordinance outlining the rate increases with a set floor for areas of the county that have competition in the waste hauling industry and a ceiling in areas without competition.
Hamilton will return to the board May 10 with a draft ordinance.
The board said it hopes to have an ordinance with the new rate schedule complete and in effect before Preferred Septic and Bishop Waste begin taking bids for the next fiscal year in June.

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