Grass Valley OKs 3% rate hike for garbage pickup |

Grass Valley OKs 3% rate hike for garbage pickup

In a time when jobs are hard to come by, most people aren’t counting on a 3 percent pay raise this year. But that’s exactly what Waste Management Inc. is getting from the city of Grass Valley.

Tuesday night, City Council members unanimously agreed to the increase – essentially because they had to. The city’s longtime contract with the garbage collection company, the nation’s largest, allows for a 3 percent annual rate hike.

Waste Management inherited the provision from Grass Valley Disposal, which included the 3 percent clause in its original contract that was signed with the city in 1991 and runs through 2015.

As a result, rates will jump 36 cents for customers with one trash can (from $11.88 to $12.24), and 55 cents for customers with a 96-gallon waste wheeler (from $18.35 to $18.90 monthly). The rate hike is retroactive to Feb. 1.

Given the current struggling state of the economy, Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout expects the increase to ruffle some feathers among customers.

“It’s not a big deal in the scheme of things. But it is a big deal to people who have lost their job,” Swarthout said.

A few people at Tuesday’s council meeting questioned the increase, including Councilman Chauncey Poston.

“We have an inordinate amount of people in our community who live on a fixed income,” Poston said. “And believe me, they watch their pennies.”

The increase doesn’t surprise Kathy Haut, a Grass Valley resident, who is used to costs going up.

“It seems like everything goes up at the same time. Stamps will go up, then gas and then electricity. But it’s frustrating,” Haut said. “When people are on a tight budget, you start to wonder, when it will stop? You’re not making any more money but everything costs more and you eventually won’t be able to afford anything.”

Waste Management is sensitive to the ramifications of the rate hike, said communications manager Justin Caporusso. But, he pointed out the contract cannot rise to more than 75 percent of the consumer price index, if that number increases from year to year.

“Over the length of the contract, it evens out,” Caporusso said. “We can’t ask for more if our fuels or personnel costs rise substantially in a year. We do, though, understand the tough economic times in the current year.”

Poston prodded Waste Management to consider a different fee structure in light of residents who live on a fixed income. Waste Management will consult with the city’s staff on other fee structures for the remaining five years on the contract, said Tim McGill, a regional representative with the company, who attended Tuesday’s meeting.

While she doesn’t want the price to go up, Isabell Thomas, a Grass Valley resident, said she understands the hike.

“I don’t want it to go up, but if gas and wages keep going up, they have to pay for it,” she said.

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail or call (530) 477-4239.

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