Letters to the editor July 11, 2017

Trash rates should

reflect service costs


As reported in the July 5 edition of The New Era, the City Council discussed the prospect of having automatic rate increases for Sweet Home Sanitation, effective with the passage of a pending city ordinance addressing said automatic rate increase, and have that rate increase tied to the CPI.

I have no axe to grind with Sweet Home Sanitation, and have been extremely pleased with the service and quick response to the occasional missed pick-up of our glass recycling. This is more about making sure that whatever the city does, benefits the employees of the service and not just the company.

At first blush, I thought an automatic escalator seemed like a good idea (on the surface). But the more I think about it, I have reservations for the following reasons:

Sweet Home Sanitation is a service-related entity. As such, they don’t create “product” but rather, render a service. This type of service generally has costs that one can summarize as a “three-legged stool.” One leg is employee costs, one leg is vehicle maintenance and replacement, and the third is fuel to operate the fleet.

While using the CPI as the gauge by which rates are governed, the CPI does not take into consideration two of the three legs of the stool. Employee costs and wages are fixed by the employer (not necessarily based on CPI). Fuel costs are fickle and go up and down, based on market and the whim of the oil companies. Fuel prices are not part of the calculations in establishing CPI.

Further, if there were a spike in fuel costs, Sweet Home Sanitation would seek a surcharge to garbage service to offset the spike in fuel costs. So, now we are left with a two-legged stool.

One of the remaining legs of the stool is labor costs. Unless there is a solid commitment by Sweet Home Sanitation to give their employees the same CPI based COLA, the second leg of the stool is eliminated from consideration for the “need” for an automatic rate escalator. This leaves only equipment and maintenance as the only justification for a CPI based rate increase each and every year.

I am a retiree on a fixed income who receives cost-of-living increases based on CPI. Since the last increase in Sweet Home Sanitation’s rates, I have received no COLA for 2016 and a whopping .01 percent (one tenth of one percent) for 2017 (or a grand total of $5). I know that is kind of beside the point, so I return to my main point.

Unless Sweet Home Sanitation commits to, and guarantees that their employees get a COLA commensurate with the percentage of rate increases suffered by customers, I think it is bad business for the city to automatically authorize rate increases for Sweet Home Sanitation. The method employed for years has worked just fine.

Gary Jarvis

Sweet Home