Trash rates going up in Newport
Thompson Sanitary came to the Newport City Council with its hat in its hand to ask for a sizeable rate increase for picking up trash, recycling and composting – exactly the same requests made by trash haulers in Lincoln City and South Lincoln County. The reason, of course, is due to what the Chinese are doing to America and other countries – they’re not taking nearly as much recycling, or other “throw-away products” as we’re used to turning over to them. In fact it’s almost stopping altogether.
So, in the face of that, trash haulers are now charging customers to take their recyclables away as well as their regular garbage and trash. And they’re bowing to the strict requirements for what they will take – especially with plastics. Plastics with the number 1 and number 2 on them are accepted. Plastics with numbers higher than that are not accepted. Cardboard is not accepted. GP in Toledo doesn’t take it anymore. Other kinds of trash and garbage are not accepted either including shredded paper of any kind.
It means that garbage and what we used to recycle is likely to wind up in landfills. And that ain’t cheap. Check your trash hauler’s website. It’s all there.
Of course there’s always hope, if not an eventual possibility, that what we can no longer recycle will prompt various companies to figure out what to do with the “left overs.” But for now, Newport, get ready to pay higher trash hauling fees. Thompson asked for and received permission from the Newport City Council Monday night to grant Thompson an 11.5% increase in monthly bills. It’s not a lot of money, maybe two or three dollars more come mid-Summer. But money’s money – especially for low income residents.
Thompson officials say they’re hopeful that the rates can stay at the new rate without any more big price hikes. But they caution, the marketplace is running the show on trash hauling. They say a way to fight back is to go to Thompson Sanitation’s website – ThompsonSanitary.com – and take the time to read over what’s happening and how you can minimize your trash stream in order to lower your monthly bill. Thompson officials say they’re already noticing that many customers are putting their rolling trash cans on a diet – sometimes eliminating two out of their three trash cans, thereby lowering their garbage bills considerably.
But for now, it’s 11.5% more in Newport to haul the same stuff. That rate is pretty much in the ballpark for higher rates requested by North Lincoln Sanitary and Dahl Disposal, Lincoln County’s two other trash haulers
At the end of the agenda item, the city council requested that Thompson Sanitary return to the council and explain, in detail, the way they arrive at monthly billing for their customers – again, a few dollars more a month. The council’s a little confused by the arithmetic.
The challenge of setting utility fees in Newport
The council also took another stab at making sense of Newport’s utility rates for water, sewer, storm water and other infrastructure – especially for new construction and fixing crumbling pipes in the ground, of which there are many.
Common complaints were mentioned about the recently proposed rate hikes – especially for large commercial establishments. But others, who describe themselves as lower income, again turned up the heat during public comment. “We can’t afford rate hikes. We’re barely making it with where our monthly bills are right now.” They went on to all but demand that the Newport Council do what other Oregon cities are doing – cutting rates for low income residents whose incomes can be verified by a number of government or non-profit agencies.
City Manager Spencer Nebel says his latest utility rate program still isn’t coming together because what staff has loosely put together still hits low income residents much harder than any other group. At that point, Council President Dietmar Goebel said he wasn’t comfortable even calling for approval of a tentative change in infrastructure fees. Nebel jumped right in and agreed with Goebel, asking for more time, but not too much more time. He suggested a new approach to setting rates for water, sewer, storm water and other infrastructure – and that a new approach should involve taking the financial burden off those on fixed or lower incomes. But Nebel’s said in the past that Newport’s aging infrastructure is in the process of failing and that the money has to come from somewhere. And it’s not all going to be from government grants and other “free money” sources.
And speaking of utilities, up-front fees for new housing and commercial construction projects – fees called System Development Charges (SDC’s) – was center stage for a while before the council. Housing developer Wilder, as it turned out, over-bought SDCs when they developed their Wilder housing project near the college. They soon discovered they had a surplus of SDCs, which are very expensive. So they approached the city with a proposal to sell their “surplus” SDCs to other developers who would like to save some money on projects they are pursuing, or thinking about pursuing.
Although no developer names were mentioned, it was plain that the city might very well be interested in seeing that these deeply discounted SDCs from Wilder are applied to work-force or affordable housing – no McMansions because the wealthy don’t need discounts on anything. The council said it wants more time to consider Wilder’s offer to sell their surplus SDCs. The city really doesn’t have much say in who buys them because Wilder owns them because they paid for them during the early days of the Wilder development off SE 40th near the college. Everybody agreed they need to think this one over.
The council also was busy as a bee trying to decide whether Newport should become a Bee City USA city. It’s a movement rolling across the country to combat the loss of habitat for bees and the poisonous effects of pesticide spraying in and among forests and farmlands which are favorites of bees. The council already approved participating in a “pollination zone” along Highway 101 south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge all the way to Yachats. Some councilors were curious as to what the restrictions would be if Newport became at Bee City USA. Although they rather liked the sound of the program, councilors also wanted to know what they would be getting themselves and the city in to. So they turned the issue over city staff to flesh out the topic and report back at the next council meeting.