Citing rising costs and deferred maintenance, the Trinity County Board of Supervisors voted last week to increase the county’s solid waste tipping fees collected at its nine transfer stations for assorted items ranging from household waste to construction debris.
New fees are also being added for disposal of fluorescent tubes and tires, but no increase was proposed in the annual $100 per household parcel fee collected.
Deputy Director of Solid Waste Diane Rader said the county hasn’t raised its tipping fees since 2013 when an increase was approved based on 2010 operating costs, “so we’re a bit behind in what it costs to run the system. Hopefully, this will stabilize our disposal fees so we can get on with doing what we need to do to comply with state measures overall.”
Increased tipping fees will generate an estimated $600,000 per fiscal year in additional revenue to the county’s solid waste enterprise fund.
Rader said the Solid Waste Department has continued to attempt to run operations with limited staff, equipment and funds over the past few years. In 2013, the cost of operations was $178 per ton. A cost study conducted in 2016 showed costs rising to $210 per ton, and a current cost study shows $240 per ton.
“With the current operations running lean, there is no room for any additional cuts to reduce these costs if the sold waste system is to continue with its current structure. Without an increase in tipping fees, there will need to be reductions in service to offset unrealized revenue,” she said in her recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.
She said the department always strives to operate as efficiently as possible with minimal resources, “but the current list of deferred maintenance items is growing and will ultimately cause lapses in the ability to provide services.”
There is currently no plan to close any transfer stations, “but that’s where you would get savings if you had to reduce the cost of the system. If this is not approved, we would have to work on a plan,” Rader said.
A list of rising fees is included in the ordinance passed and enacted by a unanimous vote of the board following last week’s public hearing. It will become effective 30 days after its passage, and there will be no second hearing because it is not required for fee ordinances.
One of the larger increases is for single stream recycling going from $6 per cubic yard to $24. Rader said it was started as a pilot program at the Hayfork transfer station, “but it is not sustainable. It is more expensive to recycle than to throw something away, partly because China is not taking our stuff. It is a problem throughout the country.”
The cost to dispose of metal waste is going from $18 per ton to $38, but there is no increase for white metals which Sup. Keith Groves said he appreciates “since that is what is littering our roads.”
Sup. Bobbi Chadwick said she appreciates the occasional amnesty days waiving fees for certain items “because that really cleans up Hayfork.” She asked if the current fee increases are sufficient for a while, or just a short-term fix.
County Administrative Officer Richard Kuhns said he has been working with all county departments that collect fees for services to develop a five-year plan “so they don’t have to do this every year, and that is something we’re looking at right now.”