On Monday, The Dalles City Council tabled consideration of a 2.06 percent garbage service rate increase in order to gather more information.
The issue will back on the table at the city’s Dec. 8 meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in city hall, 313 Court Street.
Councilor Dan Spatz and Mayor Steve Lawrence asked Erwin Swetnam, district manager for the disposal service, to provide data showing what other same-sized cities in Oregon charged. They said that would be the best way to know if the requested increase was in line with other communities.
“Do you know where you are in terms of other providers?” asked Lawrence.
“I would say we’re in the zone,” said Swetnam.
If the 2 percent rate increase is approved, the cost to residents for a 20 gallon can will go up by 22 cents, from $11.18 to $11.40.
Disposal service for a 32-gallon can will go up by 31 cents, from $16.15 to $16.46. The 90-gallon roll cart will cost 43 cents more, from $23.66 to $24.09.
Commercial users will pay 38 cents more for a 32 gallon can, $19.29 to $19.67. The 90-gallon rollcart will be 55 cents more, $29.11 to $29.66.
A 1 and one-half yard container will be 57 cents more, from $29.42 to $29.99 with other charges for additional service.
If rates go up, the city will receive a small increase in the amount of the franchise fee collected from the gross revenue of the service provider. Nolan Young, city manager, told the council Monday that it was not yet known how much the additional revenue would be.
Swetnam pointed out that the local company includes hazardous waste and recycling services that are made available only with additional fees in other areas. Also, he said Wasco County operates the landfill and is expected to raise the usage fee and hazardous waste tax for a total amount of 1 percent in January, something the disposal service has no control over.
That increase added to rising health care, labor and operational expenses has brought a 3.8 percent hike in the cost of doing business, said Swetnam.
He said, for some reason, cans were heavier than usual in 2014, which had also brought more disposal costs. In addition, he said hauling debris from the construction site at Google, which is building a new data storage center, had been “labor intensive” due to security concerns and necessitated more contract labor.
Lawrence asked Swetnam to refine the rate list to exclude charges that were not levied in The Dalles. For example, there was a fee for moving a can over uneven ground, which Swetnam said was not charged to local residents.
Russ Brown, a newly elected councilor who takes office in January, brought forward a list of complaints registered by several commercial customers. One of these complaints was that there had been a turnaround time of several days for a 30-yard drop box, which had stalled construction. Brown said the business owner thought the demand from Google might have been behind the slowdown.
“I’ve encouraged people to call the city manager with their problems if they can’t get the issue resolved,” he said.
Swetnam said 16-18 additional boxes had been lined up for Google, which used five at a time.
“It shouldn’t interrupt what the public is doing,” he said.
“Aren’t you being compensated for that?” asked Lawrence.
“Shame on us, shame on us, we didn’t do it (charge Google for extra costs),” said Swetnam.
He said people using private drop boxes had to sign a liability waiver before they would be emptied. He said there were more than 100 containers that held 1 and one-half yards of debris that were about 40 years old, which posed a safety concern.
He said these boxes did not fit well on the arm of garbage trucks that hoisted them for emptying and needed to be replaced.
“They’re really unsafe,” he said.
Councilor Bill Dick made the motion to table the issue until the next meeting.
In 2013, The Dalles Disposal was granted a 1.9 percent increase.