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Supervisors OK waste service increases in South County

By June 17, 2010

Democrat staff writer

Nearly 2,000 South County residents will begin paying 15 percent more for their trash removal starting July 1. El Dorado County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the rate hike requested by Amador Disposal Service.

Under the terms of the countyÕs franchise agreement with Waste Connections of California – the parent company of Amador Disposal – the Board of Supervisors has the authority to revise trash removal rates at least every two years. In addition, the agreement includes an assurance that the company is entitled to make a Òreasonable profitÓ for its efforts.

Amador Disposal submitted extensive documentation to the countyÕs Environmental Management Department that shows that over the past several years, it has operated at a loss and that the rate increase is warranted within the agreement. Director of environmental management, Gerri Silva, told the board the company reported a $20,000 loss in 2009.

Silva went on to explain that industry standards suggest a profit range of from 3 percent to 8 percent, Òbut our old contracts have not come up to that.Ó Some franchise agreements have been in place for years, and Silva noted that the county is working to update them.

Although he eventually went along with his colleagues, Supervisor Ray Nutting said the Òreasonable profitÓ concept Òis vague, and I donÕt think it should be there.Ó

County Counsel Mike Ciccozzi cautioned the board that if the county did not uphold its obligation under the contract, Òa claim could occur.Ó

Amador Disposal serves portions of El Dorado County including Grizzly Flat, parts of the Latrobe area, Somerset, Outingdale and other locales south of the Cosumnes River. The remoteness, lack of population density and distance between customers significantly add to the costs for service. The company has moved the base of its El Dorado County operations and truck fleet to the corporationÕs headquarters as a cost cutting measure, according to Sue Farris, divisional manager for Waste Connections, which includes El Dorado Disposal as well as Amador Disposal. The company also provides removal services in Calaveras County.

Farris explained in a phone interview Wednesday that the 1,900-plus commercial and residential customers in the South County keep two trucks and two drivers busy five days a week. They haul one load to the material recovery facility (MRF) in Amador County and the other load to the MRF off Highway 49 between Placerville and Diamond Springs. She pointed out that by basing the rural service at headquarters, she can draw on 40 other trucks and drivers if one of her South County rigs breaks down or a driver gets sick. About 100 employees staff the local operation, she said.

Because of the significant investment in vehicles and equipment, Farris explained that a company like Waste Connections would typically look for long-term contracts or franchise agreements. ItÕs not uncommon within the industry to have a 25-year agreement, she said. The stability of such a contract is incentive for the company to continue its investments in vehicles and equipment.

One truck costs about $250,000, and because of strict environmental and air quality standards, the vehicles must be maintained at a high level. She said a new muffler system, if required for compliance, runs about $30,000. If a vehicle cannot be brought up to CaliforniaÕs standards, the firm may sell it to a company in another state – but it still will need a new truck.

Trash removal service is divided into two categories, mandatory and subscription. Urban areas typically fall under the mandatory section. Farris said residents of El Dorado Hills, Cameron Park and Placerville are required to participate in trash removal services. Customers in the South County are in the subscription category.

Under county ordinance, a resident of those areas may opt to have Amador Disposal pick up their garbage bin weekly or take their own refuse to a transfer station, that is, a MRF. Also, county ordinance dictates that garbage may not be left out for more than seven days. The ordinance is aimed to curb residents who are ÒstockpilersÓ of garbage, Farris said.

The cost of the rural service is $18.10 a month for a 32-gallon can. By contrast, if a resident were to take his 32-gallon can to the MRF once a week, it would cost $24 for the month, Farris explained. Amador Disposal service in El Dorado County does not include the extra recycle bin nor the green waste bin that are common in urban service areas.

In a similar action, the board approved a rate increase of 0.71 percent for customers of Sierra Disposal Service, a subsidiary of the South Tahoe Refuse Company. That rate adjustment also becomes effective July 1.

E-mail Chris Daley at [email protected] or call (530) 344-5063.

Chris Daley

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