Concerns that fee revenue is lagging too far behind Trinity County’s expenses and overhead for certain programs, including commercial cannabis licensing and solid waste facilities, the county is preparing to do a comprehensive fee study to identify problem areas and possible increases.
County Administrative Officer Richard Kuhns was directed by the Trinity County Board of Supervisors in January to initiate the fee study that was included in this year’s county budget and should take between six and eight weeks to complete. The board at its Feb. 4 meeting followed up by approving a $75,000 increase in its contract with Rodney Craig Goodman Jr., the county’s financial consultant, to perform the fee study in addition to providing assistance in preparing the annual budget.
“We will look at our program expenses countywide, including cannabis, and then what we charge in fees,” Kuhns said.
His informal report on fees to the board during its Jan. 22 meeting was focused more on solid waste costs to maintain and operate the county’s nine transfer stations that hit a net loss of $380,106 before tipping fees were increased last year to get that number to a net zero.
“But that does not allow for new equipment or staff. We will be looking within the fee study for that, and we have trucks that are coming to the end of their leases so we’ll be having to purchase a couple more. Also, minimum wage is going up so we anticipate a negative balance again for next year if we don’t do something,” Kuhns said.
Solid Waste Manager Diane Rader said specific concerns have been expressed by residents using the Hyampom transfer station, but each of the smaller sites located at Hobel/Trinity Center, Burnt Ranch, Big Bar, Junction City, Ruth, Van Duzen and Hyampom all need maintenance.
She estimated $78,000 in costs just to replace the inground bins at each of those sites and that figure doesn’t include labor to perform the work.
“Those systems have been in place since the 1980s and they are needing repair at this point. It’s a result of things being deferred and not maintained as they should be,” Rader said, adding new bins are built to be more durable.
She said the net loss figure is specific to sites and routes paid for by tipping fees, not the $100 annual property assessment per household, “but that’s what’s covering losses at this point.” The solid waste assessment is supposed to be used for annual maintenance and post-closure costs at the old Weaverville landfill of approximately $200,000 a year plus administrative overhead for the solid waste program and some site maintenance.
Rader said the Weaverville and Hayfork transfer stations are also facing some expensive repairs including maintenance of the tipping floor and installation of an apron around it at Weaverville, for an estimated cost of $285,000. She added Hayfork should have the same system, and the cost for that was estimated at $452,000 the last time she looked in 2012.
Everything on the solid waste expenditure list will be factored into the upcoming fee study to determine what it will take to cover it all.
In other business at the Jan. 22 meeting, the board authorized hourly wage adjustments for 37 county job classifications to bring them into compliance with rising minimum wage requirements statewide. The total cost for current employees is an increase of $6,421 per month ($77,052 per year) and the adjustments were made effective Jan. 1.
Human Resources Director Shelly Nelson said minimum wage will continue to increase annually through 2023, and the county is addressing the rising costs through labor negotiations with each employee bargaining unit “to hopefully resolve it all this year.”