The City Council on Thursday will decide whether to update the city’s deal with Orange Avenue Disposal.
My takeaway: City Hall is finally entering Proposition 218 territory for our utility bill, but for some reason wants to do so quietly.
Orange Avenue Disposal, or OAD as it’s called at City Hall, operates a transfer station. Various types of trash are taken to OAD’s transfer station. OAD then takes the non-recyclable waste to the American Avenue landfill.
The Department of Public Utilities’ residential solid waste service takes the trash it collects to the OAD transfer station.
OAD, with staff support, is asking the council to amend its contract with the city so the company can recover rising fuel and labor (i.e. rising minimum wage) costs.
Jerry Schuber, head of DPU’s Solid Waste Management Division, writes in his report to the council:
“The City currently delivers approximately 250,000 tones of municipal solid waste materials annually to the OAD Transfer Station. The revised total cost for base transfer station operations and hauling; transfer station surcharge; and disposal at the American Avenue Landfill represents a $296 per ton increase in total charges compared to the current rate. This will result in an annual cost increase of approximately $740,000.
“The Solid Waste Management Division currently provides service to approximately 110,000 single-family residential accounts and, therefore, the expected increase on a typical residential solid waste account will be approximately $0.30 per month on a current monthly charge of $25.37 per month…. These cost increases will not become effective unless a residential rate adjustment is approved through the Proposition 218 process and adopted by the City Council.”
Two things strike me as particularly interesting in Schuber’s report.
First, the council, should it approve OAD’s request, would be committing the city to the Proposition 218 process. Such a process, during which ratepayers get ample opportunity to opine on a proposed hike to their utility bill, can be lengthy. Sometimes it can be controversial, as we learned during the Recharge Fresno water rates debate. Will this 218 process get heated? A 30-cent per account hike in the typical single-family home’s monthly utility bill doesn’t seem outlandish. But stranger things have happened at City Hall.
Second, the city’s utility bill consists of more than residential trash. It can include water and sewer charges (I live in a county island; my city utility bill covers water and sewer, but not solid waste). By my recollection, it’s been a while since City Hall has adjusted the water and sewer rates. I’m guessing we’re in the fourth year of Recharge Fresno’s five-year rate plan.
Bottom line: The Proposition 218 process is probably just around the corner for the other rates on your utility bill. Seems to me the OAD contract amendment is the perfect opportunity for the City Council and the Brand Administration to begin educating Fresnans about what’s headed their way in terms of possible utility rate hikes.
However, the OAD request is on Thursday’s consent calendar. That means City Hall expects council approval with no public discussion.
I hope a council member pulls the OAD item for review. There’s potential policy gold in that transfer station.
It’s not a secret that the City is working on a Prop 218 process – this time to increase all three Public Utilities rates, Water, Sewer, and Solid Waste. Consultants have been working on it, the previous “Vagim Settlement” has been reviewed, arguments are being mustered.