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Manteca buying hybrid refuse truck
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Getting rid of Manteca’s garbage is a dirty job but it is about to get a bit cleaner.

Manteca is purchasing a diesel hydraulic hybrid rear loader solid waste collection truck for $282,702. It is the first truck added to the solid waste fleet designed to meet looming tougher air quality standards. The state mandate for cities and private contractors to switch to cleaner engines for refuse collection trucks could cost Manteca in excess of $2 million over several years.

Maintenance costs for the 19-year-old truck now exceeds $15,000 a year.

Diesel-hydraulic hybrids are ideally suited for heavy vehicles that start and stop often. The technology typically yields fuel savings between 17 and 28 percent depending upon the conditions. It can also extend brake life by as much as 400 percent. It also reduces tire wear.

Manteca is expected to be able to absorb much of the $2 million impact due to conservative fiscal management of the garbage collection enterprise funds.

A pre-emptive move to cut labor costs in all of the city’s enterprise operations – including sewer, water, and the golf course – is helping Manteca avoid rate increases induced by The Great Recession that other cities are now pondering.

The triple whammy of a drop-off in construction coupled with a wave of foreclosures and depressed prices for recyclable materials have left many cities eating into reserves in their enterprise accounts where municipal operations are covered by the fees paid by users.

Tracy, as an example, lost $1.1 million last fiscal year making it the third time in four years they have received less revenue than annual operating expenses. Another year of losses would wipe out that city’s reserves.

Municipal workers
help city residents
avoid rate hikes
Employee concessions that helped the city balance the general fund this year that was facing an $11.3 million deficit also helped avoid the enterprise funds from going into deficit spending.

Essentially, city employees agreeing to cutbacks in their compensation not only helped protect their jobs and municipal services but also helped Manteca avoid a rate increase in the enterprise funds others than ones already scheduled to pay for capital costs such as in the sewer division.

And in the case of water, wage concessions combined with a drop in the cost of construction of water line replacement projects helped residential users see a slight drop in their 2010 water rates.

A year ago the City of Manteca would issue 1,000 final notices to cut off water service for non-payment of municipal utility bills. Of those, 200 actually ended up with service turned off.

Today there are 1,800 final notices mailed each month. City workers end up turning water service off to 400 homes in any given month.

Last year’s delinquency rate of 5.10 percent cost the city’s water, sewer, and solid waste accounts $149,350.16 annually. That is up from $87,945.99 from the previous year. The city projected the delinquency rate could hit 10 percent this year and cost ratepayers who pay on time as much as $300,000 since they ultimately have to absorb the losses Manteca is forced to write off.

Concessions employee groups agreed to include forgoing a pre-negotiated 4 percent pay raise this year and another 4 percent in 2011 plus taking unpaid furlough days that are the rough equivalent of a 3 percent loss in pay. Workers also are paying more toward their retirements.

The reduction in labor costs has helped offset other cost increases.

Manteca this fiscal year is expected to collect $8.2 million and spend $8.8 million running the solid waste operations. Part of the increase in expenses was from shifting street sweeping operation from the street maintenance portion of the general fund to the solid waste account. The city did that after more than 90 percent of the street sweeping efforts qualified as a solid waste function based on an analysis confirmed by an attorney specializing in laws governing enterprise accounts.

Even so, Manteca is projected to have a $4.7 million balance on June 30, 2010 in the solid waste account. A large chunk of that money is earmarked for capital expenses such as truck replacement.

Manteca also may have to start looking at another place to take their trash as the facility on Austin Road just north of the city is expected to reach capacity within the next 10 or so years. That would require incurring additional time and costs to truck garbage further or – if a nearby location isn’t secured – to transport it out of state to Nevada.