Two 4-0 votes last night by the Half Moon Bay City Council approving mandatory garbage collection and recycling services along with a fixed annual rate increase of 3% per year for the next five years (July 2011 - July 2015) capped off a series of decisions that will the way city residents will dispose of their solid waste and recycle their paper, plastic and cans, among other materials.
Councilmember Allan Alifano recused himself from the deliberations, public hearings and votes for each of the agenda items, saying that had entered into a business relationship as of Dec. 30, 2010 with Allied Waste that he said "could be a conflict of interest."
Despite a gathering of 10-15 people who had assembled in the audience (along with a few representatives from Allied Waste), resident Eduardo Magana was the only person who addressed the council during the mandatory garbage ordinance hearing -- on behalf of three properties that share one large garbage container.
"Why put all the garbage in separate containers? The company is very greedy," he said. "I don't feel it's right...they're forcing people," he said.
Councilmembers explained to Magana that it appeared that he had misunderstood the intent of the ordinance.
"It's not a greedy garbage company," Mayor Naomi Patridge said, "it's mandated by the state for recyclables to be collected." Patridge was referring to AB 939, which requires local municipalities and regional waste disposal services to divert 50% of generated recyclables from landfills and collect the materials for recycling instead. The city is currently out of compliance with AB 939.
Councilmember Marina Fraser said to Magana there would be no change for him under the mandatory garbage ordinance, and he would not have to set up three separate accounts.
Later in the meeting, resident William Harrison said he supported the mandatory collection ordinance and that in the past few years, a "sweet smell of burning garbage" has been present in his neighborhood from what he said were a few residents who he thinks are burning garbage in their fireplaces.
There were a few more comments for the rate increase agenda item.
Magana publicly stated that he thought the rate increases were "getting a little out of hand" as he said his monthly garbage bill had increased a few hundred dollars in recent years.
Harrison said to the council that he wanted to know how the increase in rates was decided.
"We came up with the best solution for the city and the residents," Councilmember John Muller said, later noting that the increase of 3% per year is fixed and that the negotiation was the "culmination of three to four years of discussions with Allied Waste."
According to the city, a 3% annual increase on a 32-gallon can translates to a monthly cost that will change from $20.62 in July 2011 to $23.22 in July 2015 by the end of the 5-year contract with Allied Waste that the city council on Dec. 21 of last year.
"We sat down with Allied Waste and got behind the ball...we owed Allied over $1 million," said Councilmember John Muller. "Almost every city is behind in pay [to Allied]," he said.
The debts of local municipalities to Allied Waste are one factor that has reportedly contributed to recent rate increases that have either been approved or are currently being considered throughout San Mateo County, despite the fact that most cities in the county transitioned from Allied Waste to Recology as their service provider in the new year.
Half Moon Bay's rate increase appears to be the most modest in comparison to other cities in San Mateo County that have raised their rates or are proposing to raise their rates in the near future.
Last night, the Foster City City Council unanimously approved a 29.5% rate hike. Burlingame's City Council considered a garbage rate increase of 17% last night. And on Jan. 10, Redwood City raised their garbage rates by 18%. Atherton, San Mateo and Menlo Park are among other cities proposing rate increases as well.
By the time of the council's vote, nine residents had filed written protests with the city in regards to the proposed rate increase, City Manager Laura Snideman reported at the council meeting last night. Had the council received more than 2,000 written protests against the new rates -- over half of the number of residents who were notified about the rate increases -- the city would have been legally barred from voting on the proposed rate increase under California Proposition 218, according to Snideman.
Snideman said that the increased $162,202 in revenue the city projects to receive from Allied Waste (due to the increased level of service the company will provide due to the mandatory ordinance) is money that can be put into its General Fund, meaning that it can be applied towards city services outside of waste collection and recycling.
The mandatory garbage collection ordinance and the rate increase will go into effect on July 1, as will the new services under the 5-year contract, which include swapping out customer-provided garbage cans with rolling carts provided by Allied Waste and replacing sorted recycling with single-stream recycling. Food composting is not included in the city's contract, so scraps should be disposed of in the regular garbage can if residents do not compost their own food at home already.
Prior to last night's vote, Half Moon Bay was the only city in San Mateo County that did not require residents and businesses to subscribe to garbage collection and recycling services.
To view the complete mandatory garbage ordinance and information supplied by the city about the rate increases, view the PDF documents attached to this published yesterday in Half Moon Bay Patch about last night's vote.