Residents living outside Olympia are projected to pay an additional $1.64 a month for garbage collection next year if Thurston County commissioners approve a significant increase in disposal fees at the county's main transfer station.
Those who self-haul an average load to the Waste and Recovery Center will pay $2 more under the proposal.
The average Olympia resident likely will see a $1.42 bimonthly increase for curbside garbage and recycling pickup if the fee increase is approved.
More detailed information about the effect of the proposed fee increase on residents has emerged since it became public.
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Thurston County commissioners will hold a public hearing Monday about the proposed 2010 budget, which includes the proposed increase and is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. They are scheduled to vote to adopt the budget Dec. 18.
The county proposes a 371/2 percent increase in the tipping fee, to $110 a ton from $80 a ton. The flat fee would increase to $17 for 300 pounds or less from $15 for 380 pounds or less. The average self-hauler brings in about 250 pounds to the Waste and Recovery Center.
In turn, the city of Olympia has proposed passing through to its residents a portion of the fee increase in its proposed 2010 budget. Harold LeMay Enterprises, which owns private haulers for all areas of Thurston County outside the capital city, has filed a request with state regulators to pass the cost to its customers. The state Utilities and Transportation Commission will consider the request Dec. 23.
The recession, combined with the county’s efforts to get more people to recycle more, have reduced the amount of waste headed to the transfer station, in turn reducing the amount of revenue to pay for operations and recycling programs.
Without the increase, the county’s solid waste program is projecting a $3.5 million shortfall next year that would result in cuts, including cutting hours at the main transfer station and reducing recycling education and outreach efforts.
The increase would raise revenue to pay increasing costs, expand the county’s recycling and sustainability efforts, and pay for future construction projects.
The program will raise an additional $5.2 million if the fee increase is approved, based on it receiving 176,013 tons of garbage next year. The volume of garbage essentially is the same as what the program is expecting to receive this year.
Local governments will continue to struggle with declining revenue to run landfills, transfer stations and recycling programs as recycling and reuse increases and revenue from waste disposal wanes.
Some of the revenue from the proposed fee increase will be held in reserve to buffer the program as revenues continue to decline until alternatives can be found.
The county is involved in nationwide efforts to get more manufacturers to pay for the costs of disposing of their products. For instance, the state now requires the manufacturers of electronic consumer products to recycle these items free of charge for residents, schools and small businesses.
Thurston County’s tipping fee is third-lowest of the 25 counties surveyed this year, its data show.
County officials acknowledge that the proposed fee increase will have a greater effect on businesses that generate more garbage. As such, the county will hire an outreach and education specialist to work with them to reduce waste and increase recycling.
They say businesses generate about 70 percent of the waste disposed at the transfer station and recycle only 13 percent of the materials they use.
A two-year state grant will pay three-quarters of the employee’s costs, and the county will chip in the remainder, or $20,250 a year. The employee will be compensated $81,000 in salary and benefits. The employee will target restaurants and grocery stores.
Anthony Anton, chief executive officer of the Washington Restaurant Association, said the proposed fee is another example of increasing costs affecting businesses at a time when price-sensitive consumers are eating out less and spending less when they do dine out.
“It’s just one more straw on the camel’s back,” he said.
LeMay picks up food waste outside Olympia. The company and the city both provide the service in the capital city.
The solid waste program will have five outreach and education specialists after the new hire is made. Terri Thomas, who supervisors the specialists, said the county and state are updating their solid waste plans and will emphasize recycling, reuse and reducing waste.
“We’re scratching surfaces, and we want to dig,” she said.
Christian Hill: 360-754-5427