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Councilors quibble over trash collection rates


July 21, 2015

The Sweet Home City Council last week turned down a request by Sweet Home Sanitation to raise rates for trash service, revisited the question and then tabled the discussion until its July 28 meeting.

The council completed the third reading of the ordinance, which sets the rate, during its regular meeting on July 14. Greg Mahler moved to adopt the ordinance, with a second from Bruce Hobbs.

They were joined voting yes by Mayor Jim Gourley, but Ryan Underwood, Dave Trask and Jeff Goodwin voted no, a 3-3 vote.

Goodwin said he would approve an increase of 1.8 percent. Sweet Home Sanitation had requested a 2.4-percent increase to help pay for increasing expenses and loss of revenue for recycled items.

The 2.4-percent increase would have raised the price of the 35-gallon cart, the most common service, from $22.35 to $22.90 per month, a 55-cent increase. The price for the 90-gallon cart would increase from $27.60 to $28.25 per month, a 65-cent increase. The rate for the 20-gallon cart would increase from $11.10 per month to $11.35 per month, a 25-cent increase.

A 1.8 percent increase would raise the price of a 35-gallon cart by 40 cents per month, 49 cents for the 90-gallon cart and 20 cents for the 20-gallon cart.

“How do we go about amending the ordinance,” Goodwin asked. “What does the council think is an appropriate increase?”

Hobbs said the council is honestly looking at about 25 cents, and unless Sweet Home Sanitation is “gouging,” being “unfair” or an inefficient partner, “I have a hard time understanding. Is there a feeling somehow they’re being unfair?”

The difference between 2.4 percent and 1.8 percent actually is 15 cents. (.018 multiplied by 22.35 equals .4023 cents and 55 minus 40.23 equals 14.77 cents)

The request for 2.4 percent represents too much, Goodwin said. “Two point four percent might not seem like much. Compounded, it’s too much.”

He said he is negotiating on behalf of Sweet Home citizens.

Goodwin said he has seen Sweet Home Sanitation’s financial information, and the company is making a profit.

The price of fuel is going to continue downward to $2 per gallon, he said.

“We’re not operating on assuming,” Mahler said.

“We’re not making assumptions on a business model none of us here know anything about,” Gourley said.

On Jan. 1, Oregon’s minimum wage will increase drastically, Mahler said. “I don’t think the sanitation department is gouging us at all.”

Mahler said he understands where Goodwin is coming from but his position assumes too much.

Sweet Home Sanitation will return next year and ask for 2.4 percent again, Goodwin said, and while he is currently at 1.8 percent, he might consider more.

“How are we experts in their cost of doing business?” Gourley asked.

Sweet Home Sanitation’s information should justify why a 2.4-percent increase is necessary, Goodwin said.

Sweet Home Sanitation frequently does not request an increase, and it has skipped annual increases.

“They have shown where their costs are going,” Hobbs said.

When fuel prices go down, Goodwin asked, “will they come back with a decrease?”

“You focus on fuel,” Mahler said. “There’s other expenses running a business. I know what it is, the cost of doing business. Insurance is skyrocketing.”

It’s like a household budget, Goodwin said.

“When they have not needed increases, they haven’t asked,” Hobbs said. Where costs increase, the percentage of a rate change is likely to increase. He noted that the councilors could argue which inflation numbers are relevant all over the board.

Hobbs moved to revisit the proposal. Underwood seconded the motion. The council voted 4-2 to revisit, with Mahler and Gourley joining Hobbs and Underwood. Trask and Goodwin voted not to revisit the ordinance.

Goodwin moved to table the discussion to July 28. Mahler gave him a second. The council voted 5-1 to table the discussion. Voting yes were Goodwin, Mahler, Underwood, Gourley and Trask. Hobbs voted no.

Marybeth Angulo was absent.

During the meeting, Goodwin submitted a resolution to hold a moment of silence immediately after the flag ceremony during City Council meetings and a proposed zoning ordinance to prohibit the use of any property for unlawful purposes or to carry out illegal activity. Trask gave him a second to move them to the council meeting agenda for July 28.

City Manager Craig Martin cautioned the city to follow a land use process with the proposal to amend the zoning ordinance. As a land use regulation, notification and a public hearing is required.

In other business, the council:

n Appointed Diane Gerson to the Library Board. Her term will expire June 30, 2019. The seat was vacated by Brianne McKee when her term expired on June 30.

n Authorized city staff to begin vacation processes for public rights-of-way off 59th Avenue between Poplar and Nandina streets and between Nandina Street and Main Street west of 12th Avenue and east of Ninth Avenue. Hobbs and Goodwin both abstained from voting because they may have personal or professional interest in the properties or adjacent properties.

n Declared surplus a 1994 Chevrolet Astro Van and a 1998 Chevrolet Blazer.

n Approved permit and street and park closure requests for the Oregon Jamboree, which runs from July 31 to Aug. 2.

n Authorized a closure on Mimosa Circle for the Neighborhood Watch to celebrate National Night Out Against Crime on Aug. 4.


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