Like Mono County, Inyo County is similarly wrestling with how to balance its solid waste disposal costs.
The topic was discussed at length in the third of a series of public workshops which took place Wednesday night at Bishop City Hall.
Inyo Supervisors Linda Arcularius and Susan Cash were among those in attendance.
As presented by Deputy CAO Chuck Hamilton and Managing Landfill Engineer Jeff Ahlstrom, Inyo’s solid waste budget has run approximately $600,000 in the red each of the past fiscal years.
In order to bridge that gap going forward, Hamilton and Ahlstrom presented seven variations on the same theme – increasing fees while decreasing levels of service.
That fees need to increase was not debated by the 20 or so people in the room; it is generally agreed they must increase. Ahlstrom said that the consumer price index has increased more than 17% since the last major overhaul in disposal fees back in August 2004.
Currently, it costs just $2 per vehicle to enter the landfill.
By contrast, one resident maintained that when she went to the landfill in Santa Barbara (where customers are charged based upon weight), the same load that would cost $2 in Bishop was $37.
Ahlstrom estimated that each $1 increase in Bishop’s gate fee, based upon current usage, would translate into an extra $60,000 in annual revenue.
In all the options presented to the public, the County proposed raising the gate fee by at least $3 and possibly more.
The County estimated it could also save nearly $200,000 annually by cutting back the number of days and hours it would operate its Independence and Lone Pine landfills as well as its Big Pine transfer station.
By keeping Lone Pine and Big Pine open just three days a week and Independence two days a week, Ahlstrom and Hamilton determined they could eliminate two gate attendant positions and one equipment operator position by shuffling other personnel between facilities.
The third part of the equation would be to raise miscellaneous disposal fees. For example, Ahlstrom said the County is looking at raising the price of the disposal of construction debris from $9/cubic yard to $14.
Other areas which may see fee increases include items such as furniture, electronic waste and animal carcasses.
One proposal suggested the County impose a $3.14/cubic yard fee on commercial haulers who until this point have just paid a flat franchise fee.
With commercial haulers bringing about 80,000 cubic yards of compacted trash to the county landfills annually, this would net $250,000/year.
The reasoning behind this proposal is that if private citizens are paying more at the gate, citizens who contract with haulers should also pay more, with the haulers presumably passing that fee burden onto their customers.
No matter what the County decides, it won’t be like the good old days, as one longtime resident contended that it cost just $80,000 to operate Bishop’s landfill back in 1976. Government regulations, generally mandated but unfunded by the state, and a growing environmental awareness preclude a return to simpler times.
But just because the dump may be more expensive, that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. As Arcularius observed, “For some people, it’s a social event to go to the dump.”