City garbage fees to remain unchanged

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Manvel residents will not see an increase in their cost of garbage and recycling pickup this year. Progressive Waste Solutions (PWS) approached city council in late February to present an intended adjustment to the contract amount that would have resulted in an increase in the collection fee beginning April 1. At a subsequent meeting in March, PWS retracted their adjustment request due to significant opposition from city council and in private meetings with Mayor Delores Martin and city staff.

In February, the assistant district manager for PWS, Mike Wilson, explained the intention of requesting the annual adjustment as provided in the contract of 3.4%. While acknowledging the company has had some cost reductions during the prior year he explained they have been hit with “some large landfill increases.” Apparently the cost to PWS for the landfill use is not separated out of the costs dealing specifically with garbage and recycling collection in Manvel. As Mr. Wilson said it, “we didn’t separate it out as in the contract, we lumped it all together under the CPI.” He blamed the escalations on two drivers. One is a 2.5% increase on the so called volume fill, which is the fee to actually dump the garbage. The second driver, and perhaps the leading motivator for the adjustment, is due to a “$13 swing on recycled commodities.” As Wilson described it, due to commodity prices falling the recycling processing facility went from paying out $9 per ton to requiring a collection of $4 per ton of recycled commodities.

Mayor Martin, citing fuel costs going down “drastically”, inquired of the impact that reduction should have on the contract amount saying she “always wants to protect the city and not cause any increase unless it is justified.” Wilson acknowledged the drop in fuel prices but explained the contract does not provide for a reduction below the base rate of fuel as provided in the contract at $3.75 per gallon. The contract does, however, provide for an increase in the fuel cost base rate of up to 6 cents per gallon, which he said was not implemented.

Mayor Martin also raised an issue from residents in Sedona Lakes who claim that new residents are required to pick up their carts or pay for a delivery fee. “Are you going to try that in my city as well?” the mayor asked. Mr. Wilson said that is not part of the contract and that “deliveries and removals would always be free” in Manvel. He said Sedona Lakes was charged for deliveries because they did not have a contract in place.

Council member Adrian Gaspar raised the issue of residents having to utilize PWS for construction pickups in order to gain a building permit. He said their cost is “so much more expensive than from some other place.” He speculated the higher cost is due to the favorable rate enjoyed by the city for its regular service. Mayor Martin verified that the company does have an exclusive right within the city to provide for dumpster services.

Council member John Cox inquired of the provision in the original contract negotiated last year that a resident could choose to have two regular garbage containers rather than the standard arrangement of one for garbage and one for recyclables. Cox said he has at least a dozen people “that each time they call your office (PWS) you want to charge them an additional $22 for a green can. They don’t want to do recycling. I thought that was part of our contract.” Cox was adamant in that he would not approve a raise in the fee based on the services customers are getting from PWS. Mr. Wilson said he would be happy to talk to each of those customers and confirm that they are not to be charged for the second garbage container.

At the time of the new contract being negotiated last year, recycling was a topic of debate as some on council felt that recycling should not be imposed on those who may not have an interest in participating. Cox admits to not being a recycler and said he took a list of acceptable recyclable items that showed some form of number that tells a consumer if the item is recyclable. He said he compared numerous items at his home and place of business with the list and found “half the plastic in my house was not recyclable. I’m not going to sit there and sort plastic bottles and cans and boxes and paper; I’m putting it in my trash compactor.”

A spokesman for PWS explained that recycling is far less burdensome today than it once was and that customers no longer are required to sort recyclable items before making them eligible for pick-up. With few exceptions most all glass, plastic, metal, and paper can be thrown all together in the recycling can. He claimed the experience in other communities supports the expectation that the amount of recyclable items will be of a sufficient amount that once weekly garbage pickup will be sufficient.

Cox was not convinced and it was Member Adrian Gaspar who suggested council consider providing an option for citizens who may not want to recycle for whatever reason by giving them two garbage cans rather than one garbage and one recycle. Garbage would still be collected only on Tuesday but with two cans the customer should maintain equitable capacity to current services. Gaspar explained that he is not against recycling but believes if someone just doesn’t want to deal with it they shouldn’t be made to.

In explaining the decision to forego any price adjustment this year, Wilson said, “even though we have had some significant increases, we understand the feelings about fuel and at this time Progressive would like to withdraw the increase proposal and will wait until next year. I understand the strong feelings. We do need to prop up our business via the contract, but at the same time the relationship with the City of Manvel is much more important that a CPI adjustment at this time.”

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