By Deb Murphy

Despite Inyo County’s Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio’s insistence the Board’s approval of steeper hauler gate fees was not an increase, just an adjustment, residential pick-up will probably go up $6 a month.

The final “adjustment” for end users will depend on contracts between the County and the two haulers, Bishop Waste and Preferred. According to Assistant CAO Rick Benson, the contracts are near completion and should be finalized and ready for Board approval in time for the increases to go into effect March 1.

The critical element of those contracts is the floor rate, currently set at $20.19 per residential bin. The set, minimum rate, has become the de facto rate, according to Rick Vahl of Bishop Waste. Benson estimated the new floor will rise by roughly $6, though that number isn’t set in stone until the contracts are okayed.

Carunchio is technically correct in identifying the changes, approved by the Supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting, as “adjustments.” Benson outlined the source of the adjustment in mid-November. Haulers were paying a $90 gate fee per truck, based on an estimate of cubic yards; self-haulers, $5 a load.

A year ago, a scale was put in at the Bishop landfill, starting a year of data accumulation. The results indicated the haulers were paying very little per ton, $15.34, while self-haulers were paying a lot more, $109.72. Benson was tasked with figuring out a new rate scale with instructions to keep self-haulers at $5 and using that as a baseline to “adjust” fees for all landfill operations. The only change for self-haulers is a 200 lb. limit to maintain the $5 charge and a $10 fine if the loads are not tarped.

Commercial haulers, on the other hand, will be paying $50 a ton. A full trash truck can carry as much as 10 tons, bringing that gate fee in at $500, up from $90. “That’s a big jump,” said Vahl. Both he and Dale Comontofsky of Preferred spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, both would have preferred a phased-in approach.

According to Benson’s initial presentation in November, the $50 a ton rate for haulers is on the low side. Of the six rural county landfills surveyed, rates ranged from a low in Kern of $45 to a high in Tuolumne at $147.

The rate “adjustments” will bring in an additional $635,000, taking a bite out of the $900,000 short-fall in the County’s land fill operations in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Vahl suggested closing the landfills on Sundays to cut County costs. Comontofsky felt the static fee for self-haulers put the County in competition with the haulers. In theory, if a self-hauler heads to the dump weekly, he’d be paying $20 a month. Benson said there is a County ordinance requiring removal of garbage weekly. Who knew? But neither the haulers nor the Supervisors thought that actually happened.

The Supervisors were not tickled with the tarp fee, put in place to reduce litter en route to the dump.

Benson pointed out the $10 fine was far less than the fine imposed by the California Highway Patrol if a self-hauler was caught on the highway leaving a path of debris.

In response to the question “how do you know if your load is going to fly out of the truck,” Vahl had a reasonable answer. “If you see a pick-up taking the back roads to the landfill at 20 mph,” he said, “that guy knows he needs a tarp.”


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