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County Council discusses garbage rate hike

April 19, 2018

Source: Sean Dolan, The Herald Journal

LOGAN, UT - Three weeks after the Cache County Solid Waste Advisory Board unanimously recommended higher garbage collection rates, the Cache County Council on Tuesday heard an informational report on the potential rate hikes.

The County Council has scheduled a public hearing on the garbage rates for its May 8 meeting, the same day it could vote on a one-quarter-of-one-percent sales tax increase to fund transportation and active transit.

To explain the reasoning behind the garbage rates, Logan City Environmental Director Issa Hamud and John Culbertson, a principal with MSW Consultants, delivered a presentation Tuesday and fielded questions.

Culbertson presented three potential rate scenarios with varying tip fees. According to the advisory board's recommended rates, the monthly garbage pickup fee for Logan residents would increase from $12.65 to $14.15 for 90-gallon bins and $10.50 to $11.90 for 60-gallon bins. Rates for Cache County residents with the larger bins would increase from $13.25 to $15.15 and $11 to $12.90 for the smaller bins.

Commercial garbage rates would increase depending on the size of the bin, landfill tipping fees for general refuse would increase from $29 per ton to $34.50, and tipping fees for construction and demolition debris and tree stumps would increase from $21 to $30.

The landfill tipping fee for small cars, trucks and single-axle trailers would remain unchanged at $10. Similarly, the standard $3 fee for curbside recycling is unchanged.

Logan hired Culbertson to conduct a cost of service analysis to come up with the proposed rates. Culbertson told the County Council that Logan city, which provides garbage collection and disposal throughout the county, recently invested in a new transfer station and the new North Valley Landfill. Those investments come with an increase in operating costs and a drawdown in reserve funding, he said.

"That's why I'm here today," Culbertson said. "Last rate increase was in 2006 for the solid waste system."

According to the analysis from Culbertson and MSW Consultants, the countywide garbage system requires an annual revenue of $15.8 million. But the current rates for the current customer base bring in $14.3 million.

"We come up with a little bit of a deficit," Culbertson said.

The Logan Environmental Department needs to maintain its collection trucks and save up for closure and post-closure costs for both the Logan Landfill and the North Valley Landfill, Culbertson said, creating a need for more revenue and more savings.

"The countywide system is working well," Culbertson said. "There's really an opportunity here after 12 years of no rate increases and a big investment to make a one-time rate increase."

The CEO of a private recycling company located next to the Logan Landfill, Alex Bearnson of Revolve Recycling, sent a memo to Cache County Council members early Monday morning detailing some of his concerns with the proposed rate structure and invited council members to meet him later that morning.

Councilmen Greg Merrill and Karl Ward accepted Bearnson's offer and met with him Monday. His memo asks the County Council to consider increasing the proposed construction and demolition rates closer to the actual cost of service. He claims the current fee of $21 per ton leads to an annual operating loss of $1.2 million. Bearnson's calculations show the break-even fee would be closer to $54 per ton, not the proposed $30 or $31.

At the County Council meeting, Merrill asked Hamud if it would make sense to get rid of a $1.2 million deficit if an adjacent private facility is willing to accept construction and demolition waste.

"(Revolve) is proposing... most of that being recycled and recycled being a more friendly environmental aspect than just filling up the landfill so it can be closed," Merrill said.

Hamud did not deny the $1.2 million operation deficit for construction and demolition waste, but he said it's not that simple.

He said Logan needs to take construction and demolition waste to fill the Logan Landfill, which is already partially closed. Logan has plans to continue to bury construction waste until it reaches capacity in five to 10 years. He added that Revolve is not capable of processing all of the construction waste generated in Cache County.

In a phone interview Thursday, Bearnson disputed that claim.

"That's 100 percent not accurate," he said. "That's where I get a little frustrated with Issa."

He said Revolve currently matches Logan's $21 per ton fee for construction and demolition and said he would match whatever rate the Council County adopts. He said the current rates are not sustainable for Revolve.

"It's hard to compete in the free market when we have governments saying, 'We'll we're going to charge fees that lose taxpayers $1.2 million just because we feel like we need to or we feel like we need to compete with Revolve,'" Bearnson said.

Bearnson noted that Weber County charges $46 per ton of construction and demolition waste and Teton County, Wyoming, charges $115 per ton, according to their respective municipal websites.

At Tuesday's meeting, Hamud said increasing rates over the proposed $30 per ton could convince residents to forego the dump and take care of it themselves.

"The potential of illegal dumping would be there," Hamud said.

Councilman Jon White agreed that higher rates could lead to more problems. He said people will start throwing their waste into washes throughout the county.

"When the price gets too high that's what they do today and somebody else has to clean it up," White said.

Councilwoman Barbara Tidwell asked if this rate increase will truly be a one-time increase. She said the valley is expecting population growth, which would require more routes and more trucks. Hamud said the assumption is that growth will pay for itself.