TALENT — City residents would pay the highest trash pick-up rates in Jackson County under a proposal the City Council will consider June 20.
The monthly charge by Recology would become $18.47 for one can pick-up, compared with the current $16.61, a 11.2 percent increased. The next closest rate would be Ashland's, which is $17.86.
Recology, which has a franchise agreement with the city for trash services, presented three proposals to the council Wednesday. One asked for the 11.2 percent increase, another for a 20.4 percent increase and a third would have increased rates 7.5 percent for residents with a larger increase for commercial accounts.
Rates were last increased in 2009, when Recology's predecessor, Ashland Sanitary Services, was granted a 7.7 percent increase. The council must approve any increase.
Mayor Bill Cecil cast a tie-breaking vote on a motion to have City Manager Tom Corrigan prepare a resolution for the 11.2 percent increase. Several council members supported the split increase approach.
Council members Sherman Lamb, Teresa Cooke and Diane Glendenning voted for the motion. It was opposed by council members Chris Auer, E J. McManus and Kierstin Brown.
Preparation of the resolution does not guarantee its passage, said Cecil.
"I don't want to discourage business in Talent," said Cecil. "I just think the 11.2 percent spreads it around the whole spectrum of the community."
Ashland, which also has a franchise agreement with Recology, adopted the split approach in December that gave residents a 7.5 percent increase. Commercial rates averaged a 20 percent increase for an overall 11.2 percent increase in revenues to Recology. But a company official said that level of an increase would not make the operation profitable.
Research showed that commercial customers had been getting a break on their service as their trash volume increased, while residential customers were paying more, in effect subsidizing the commercial rate. The same scenario is present in Talent's arrangement.
"We were asking customers to reward commercial customers for bad behavior," said Steve DeFabion, Recology general manager. "You want to encourage people to reduce their trash."
McManus and Brown said they favored the Ashland approach.
"In my opinion, the merchants have greater flexibility in terms of dealing with the increase than the homeowners," said Brown. Businesses can get tax credits for recycling that aren't available to homeowners, she said.
Recology says it is losing money in part because more customers are recycling and the company has billed less than it projected for garbage service. A volatile market for sale of recyclables has also led to less revenue than projected.
"As we do a better job of recycling we see a reduction in trash revenues," said DeFabion.
A 20.4 percent increase would allow the firm to achieve a fair profit, DeFabion said, which would be in the 4 to 6 percent range. The 11.2 percent would produce a "break even" operation.
If the 11.2 percent increase is approved, Recology would come back in the next fiscal year to seek an additional 8 percent increase, he said.
Discussion of the proposal and review of Recology documents took more than an hour of council time. That prompted both city and Recology officials to suggest a review of the current agreement with the possibility of linking future increases to the Consumer Price Index rather than leaving the decision to the council.
Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.