The Creswell City Council prepared for the upcoming fiscal year by adopting the 2018-19 FY budget, along with new water and sewer rates and the renewal of the public safety fee and intergovernmental agreement with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office.
But one issue that brought forth much discussion was the proposed new rate schedule for solid waste collection services provided by Sanipac for the upcoming year.
Aaron Donley, representing Sanipac, said that the recycling crisis market collapse continues and continues to affect everyone in the states and around the world with China not accepting recycling anymore. He noted that recycling in every city around the state of Oregon has been under a lot of scrutiny and every city council has had to make some tough decisions on price increases for landfill and recycling.
Donley said what Sanipac has done for the City of Creswell is to continue to absorb the recycling cost and hopefully ride out the storm. Since the recycling crisis started around the beginning of October, the additional costs for just recycling for the City of Creswell is around $21,000, and he anticipates the additional costs, because the recycling costs are so high, to be $52,000 for Creswell.
”There is also going to be a landfill tip increase of 2.6 percent for Lane County landfill, which is a large portion of our business cost along with basic operational cost increases that Sanipac has had over the course of the last year,” Donley said. ”Sanipac will continue to absorb the recycling costs with hopes of a better future for that market.”
Donley said in the past they were able to get rid of recycling for no charge. Now it costs them over a $100 a ton, sometimes as much as $140 a ton to get rid of the recycling. It is far more expensive than garbage to get rid of.
Sanipac has proposed a 4.8 percent across-the-board increase to cover operational costs and landfill cost increases for the City of Creswell.
Another concern some residents have is what to do with their yard debris. Donley noted that a survey was done a couple years ago regarding yard debris. He thinks it might be beneficial to do another survey.
Mayor Dave Stram asked Donley whether, if Sanipac were to offer yard waste recycling, all residents would have to pay for it whether they chose to utilize the service or not.
Donley said one option would be a flat fee, and another would be a subscription service where people can opt in or out. ”We can provide either option,” Donley said. ”Eugene has it built into the garbage option: everyone pays it; Springfield has a subscription version. The participation is lower with the subscription option, but does give you the opportunity to opt out. It is at least worth looking at both options.”
Mayor Stram asked City Administrator Michelle Amberg if she remembered the results of the survey that was done a few years back. Amberg recalled that it was a very popular idea to do yard waste recycling, but when people were asked if they would pay for it, the answer was no. She said it may be worthwhile looking at a subscription service and as it becomes more popular, looking at a citywide option. The city will look into yard waste recycling options with Donley and discuss it at their August or September work session.
Councilor Amy Knudsen asked Donley what Sanipac charges Veneta for yard debris pick-up. Donnelly didn’t know the answer off the top of his head. Knudsen said she would like to see their rates for cities of comparable size to Creswell.
Knudsen said she understands that the processes have completely changed and there’s no market for some forms of plastic recycling; she noted that she an avid recycler and has a 35-gallon garbage can for a family of four and a giant recycling can.
She said she used to be able to fill up the recycling can and barely fill up the garbage can. But with fewer items being recyclable now, ”I’m probably going to have to pay for a bigger garbage can, which means I will be paying more already, because I can no longer can keep my garbage in a 35-gallon can per week,” Knudsen said.
”What I’m afraid of happening is we will start raising rates on garbage and people won’t dump their garbage; they will cancel their service and it stays in their yard, or get illegally dumped on the street and soon our town starts looking pretty shabby because we are raising rates too fast,” Knudsen added.
Knudsen noted that Sanipac’s rates increased in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and are now asking for another one. ”I have a hard time approving that when you are not doing that for all the cities,” Knudsen said.
Knudsen quoted Sanipac from minutes taken in Veneta: ”’Yes, recycling processors are taking material but their costs are increasing drastically. We’ve chosen to absorb those costs for Veneta customers. We will not raise the rates because we want to get the contract and we want to show our appreciation. We have no future plans for an increase.’ I don’t think it’s fair,” Knudsen said.
Donley said with Veneta the first-year contract had an annual CPI (Consumer Price Index) built into the contract. The first year of the contract there was a ceiling on the CPI, and so there was built-in metric for the first price increase year of that contract, which was a 10-year contract, which just got renewed. He said he thought Veneta was artificially reduced because of that first-year term of the contract.
”I don’t foresee us coming in for a future price increase relating to recycling prices for the next few months. I’ve really tried to absorb the costs. Cities all over Oregon are high,” Donley said. ”It’s an unfortunate time; you can recycle less but it costs more. It costs more to get rid of the material. Creswell is coming in at 4.8 percent which I feel is beneficial to the city.”
The council voted 5-2 in favor of the new rate schedule for solid waste collection services provided by Sanipac, with councilors Knudsen and Judy Drago casting dissenting votes.