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How about buying small garbage cart upgrade from city?

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POSTED December 8, 2016 12:33 a.m.

There’s a dose of good news — and possibly more — for those Manteca solid waste customers not thrilled about the City of Manteca’s prouncement made in October when the solid waste rate hike initially was rolled out that the days of the 35-gallon garbage cart were numbered.
The city is no longer going to phase them out after Solid Waste Superintendent Rexie LeStrange came up with a solution to the troublesome small carts that created a multitude of issues when they were dumped into collection trucks by automatic arms.
She brought the solution — a larger and wider 45-gallon cart — to the Tuesday City Council meeting and parked it just outside the front doors to the council chambers.
“People will be able to get 13 more gallons of garbage in the cart,” LeStrange said.
But then she was quick to add that the city wouldn’t be replacing existing 35-gallon brown carts until they are worn out which could take decades.
That has prompted a concern that the solid waste division may be swamped with calls from existing 35-gallon carts clamoring for the new ones. But that can be an expensive proposition for the city at $35 plus per cart.
When asked, LeStrange said the city may be willing to toy with the idea that existing 35-gallon customers might be able to pay for a replacement 45-gallon cart to speed up the conversion process and reduce ongoing city issues when it comes to dumping the content of the narrower and smaller carts.
The reason existing customers might find such an offer — should the city make it — palatable is the fact rate hikes ultimately will have the monthly charge for the small garbage cart jump by $10.85 or roughly 33 percent. That compares to the ultimate 65-gallon rate jump of $7.12 a month and $4.11 more a month for the 96-gallon cart.
The bigger rate hike for the smaller cart has everything to do with the fact the rates set in 2002 purposely did not reflect 100 percent of all costs in a bid to get people to use small carts and recycle more. As for the actual cost of burying the garbage collected, the charge per ton reflects only about 20 percent of the overall expense of running the solid waste division.
So if the city charged $50 to cover the cost of a new 45-gallon cart and delivery expenses, it should be more than enticing.
Not only would the ability to increase weekly garbage volume by a third put the small cart rate increase on parity with the 65-gallon cart, but it also will pay for itself (from the customer’s perspective) within two years.
Carts traded in would be ground up and recycled.

The numbers and
garbage rate hikes
The only way besides two council members voting against it that the solid waste hikes could have been spiked at Tuesday’s public hearing was if the majority of ratepayers protested.
Under the terms of Proposition 218 dealing with rate hikes for government services such as water, sewer, and garbage it would have required a simple majority.
There were 23 protest letters sent to the city. It was a bit short. The increase would have been killed had 10,738 ratepayers delivered protests to city hall.
To the city’s credit they used the process to listen to ratepayers’ concern and provide answers to their questions over the past two months.
Several that spoke out against the rate increase Tuesday zeroed in on the absurdly low income level for those 60 and older to qualify for slightly lower rates. They pointed out the cap of $23,700 for a household of two was unreasonable given few people could survive on that in Manteca. There are 265 customers that currently charge for the rates.
David Cushman — who at 24 years of age was the youngest ever candidate to seek a seat on the City Council — argued the rate increase should have been spread out over more years to ease the impact especially on households with single moms, young families starting out and senior citizens.
Cushman referenced many who are still struggling in the uneven recovery noting it would have been more responsible to institute needed revenue increases starting a few years back instead of waiting 12 years for what he noted are 55 percent rate hikes for many residential customers.
While he made a pitch to delay the rate hike, the fact the city waited so long means if they delayed it even six months or a year the needed rate hikes would have to be much higher at the pace they are burning through the solid waste reserve.
Bill Goodwin, a Del Webb resident who is a retired businessman and former Manteca Unified School Board member provided the council with his interpretation of how the rates were established arguing that commercial is now being subsidized by residential. The city has argued with the existing rates the commercial customers are now subsiding residential.
Goodwin and others did prevail when it came to the proposed road “wear and tear” fee that the city staff floated in October for solid waste to pay the street division. It is not part of the new rate structure in any form even as a “suspended fee.”
One speaker noted if the city charges solid waste customers for street wear and tear then Manteca would have to start charging other trucks that use city streets as well in order to be fair.

What the future
holds for garbage
Public Works Director Mark Houghton noted the city is working toward a high tech labeling system for carts that can be scanned by readers so the city knows exactly whose garbage they are collecting.
It is an extension of the GPS now already on trucks to collect route information.
Such a system would go a long way toward ending chicanery that’s going on.
Some people are playing fast and loose saying they want to suspend service for an extended vacation then they will continue to use their carts.
The question of suspending service came up when a council member questioned the proposed $120 fee for the city to suspend and then restart service when requested to do so by a customer.
During the suspension period the household isn’t charged for solid waste collection.
Finance Director Suzanne Mallory said that last year 146 customers asked for vacation suspension of service for 60 days or more while another 40 asked for more than 90 days of service suspension. Most of it is due to either extended vacations or spending time at a second home.
The new $120 fee that goes into effect in March for vacation suspension may very well make such concerns a non-issue since the only way it would be cost effective to do so would be to go in a four-month vacation if you have 96-gallon or 65-gallon service. In both cases the real savings wouldn’t start until the fifth month as four months would only save the ratepayer a couple of bucks.  A 35-gallon cart customer wouldn’t save any money by opting for vacation service suspension and paying the fee unless they are gone at least seven months.
 Houghton was intrigued by one citizen speaker during the protest hearing that suggested Manteca explore adding scales to trucks to weigh each household’s garbage and charge by the pound to collect garbage as they do in Europe.
Another citizen — Wendy Benavides — urged the council to consider banning the use of Styrofoam and other oil-based containers for food takeout in Manteca to eliminate the items that are virtually non-biodegradable from being landfilled.
Benavides also suggested the city look into the possibility of recycling pet waste as well.
After the meeting, that prompted solid waste personnel to note since the plastic bag ban there has been an uptick in pet feces being dumped loose into garbage cans. That creates all sorts of problems for the city which is why the practice is prohibited in rules governing what can be placed in carts.
One solution that some customers use is to take the dog and pet food bags and place pet feces in those. Some residents will place the bag — along with popper scooper apparatus — inside their green cart between picking up droppings in their yard until such time it makes sense to place the pet food bag that has been repurposed with the collected animal droppings in a brown cart.
Pet droppings under no circumstances can be placed in the green waste cart.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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