City & Government, Creswell


By Erin Tierney
Executive Editor

Sanipac got an OK for a 2.9% rate increase during Monday night’s Creswell City Council meeting, but not without sitting through a contentious council quarrel.
Council President Amy Knudsen did not mince words. She was outspoken in her conviction that Sanipac asks for too much, too often and with too little explanation. Last month, she pressed Sanipac representatives for more justification for the 2.9% rate increase, asking for more thorough financial information, and for a history of rate increases approved.
Since the Creswell Sanipac franchise was purchased in 2010, there have been four total rate increases – a 9.38% increase in 2014; a 3.40% increase in 2016; a 2.10% increase in 2017 and a 4.80% increase in 2018. The 2.9% increase this year makes five. Last fiscal year, the city’s collection costs were $3,378; the 2.9% increase is estimated to add an additional $98 per year to expenditures.
Asking for yearly increases is “a great business strategy … but it is not (the council’s) obligation to keep providing rate increases year after year,” Knudsen said. She referenced the City’s mission statement, which says the City exists to provide quality, reliable and affordable services to residents – emphasising “affordable.”
After council requested more information regarding Sanipac financials, City Manager Michelle Amberg went to Sanipac and took a look at their books. “I think they’re being pretty forthright,” Amberg said. However, the information sought by council is not aggregated according to cities, so it is difficult to tell whether one of the funds might be subsidizing others, she said.
“That would be something that would require additional examination,” Amberg said, noting that their software is not designed to collect that kind of information. “What you’re looking at is a system that is not as refined as the county’s.”
The rate increase, according to Sanipac representatives, is due to “unavoidable costs which ultimately affect the rate structure,” such as the $1.97 per ton increase to the waste disposal fee that took effect in July, and the ongoing volatile state of the plastic recycling market.
“It’s unfortunate that the county has raised your costs, but to spread (those costs) among Creswell citizens – I don’t agree with it,” Councilor Alonzo Costilla said, noting that there’s a chunk of low-income population in Creswell.
The effect of the increase on Sanipac’s most common residential service is 62 cents per month for a 35-gallon trash can picked up weekly. Those who have the curbside yard debris service implemented in 2018 will not see an increase tacked on to that service because it is still so new.
Councilor Kevin Prociw said that initially he thought the rate increase seemed to be in line with what is typical for cost-of-living increases, but Knudsen raising questions at last month’s meeting has caused him to reexamine the issue, noting he was torn on which way to vote.
“In all due respect, councilors, (the cost of) everything does go up,” Councilor Martha McReynolds said. “The cost of garbage goes up, and it is our garbage. (Sanipac) makes a reasonable case for a reasonable increase.”
Mayor Richard Zettervall said he leans on the side of the increase being a reasonable one. “I feel that Sanipac is only asking a 2.9% increase,” Zettervall said. “Thinking about Sanipac and what they provide to the city outside of trash and recycling, they do a great deal of community service.”
Their Sanipac Duck truck is a staple at most community events. Sanipac is a notable sponsor of events in town such as Hope Restored, Party in the Park and Creswell Clubhouse and also have donated services to Creswell Food Bank, Creswell Library, and visited Creswell Court during the power outage during the March 2019 storm.
“I struggle a bit with this but I go back to think about community service,” Zettervall said. “It is somewhat of a reasonable request.”
Knudsen said she appreciates what Sanipac does for the community, “but them providing the Duck Truck for community events – I don’t think (costs) should be spread across the entire community when it only reaches a small amount of people who come to these events.”
Knudsen said committees have lengthy discussions year after year about other rate increases, “but Sanipac doesn’t seem to follow that (approach) – they just ask and don’t discuss.”
“I too didn’t think much of this before (Knudsen) brought this up,” Councilor Misty Inman said, noting that Sanipac rate increase proposals should go through the same process as water and sewage rates do – being discussed at city committee meetings before being taken to council for consideration.
“We do give more scrutiny to other rates set in the city than we do for (Sanipac),” Prociw said. “I would like to see that change.”
McReynolds reminded councilors that if this rate increase is not approved this year, Sanipac will likely come back next year with an even higher proposed increase.
Inman said she agrees that the process for which rates are proposed should be changed, but would also anticipate a higher increase next year.
Sanipac “can come and ask, but we don’t have to grant an increase,” Knudsen said. She asked Amberg if council has the ability to negotiate costs with the company.
“It does say within the agreement that (the City) will accept reasonable rate increases,” Amberg said. “The question is whether or not you feel it is reasonable and what that would look like. We can negotiate with Sanipac and see what comes of that as well.”
Creswell also contracts, for example, with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office. “Halfway through the year, they don’t come by and ask for more money,” Knudsen said. “Wait for the contract to come up and we can talk about it again; that’s my take on it.”
One of the issues here with Sanipac is that the City has a franchise agreement with them, so it’s not really a contract, Amberg said. “Perhaps we need to revisit that agreement; it might be worthwhile in order to get the metrics you’re talking about,” she said.
The rate increase was approved 4-2, with Knudsen and Costilla voting against. The increases will be implemented on Sept. 1.



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