The Cambrian

Your garbage bill could go up in Cambria — unless enough people protest

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Cambrians, check your mailboxes — you should soon receive a notice from Mission Country Disposal describing a proposed 25 percent rate increase for hauling away the town’s garbage, recycling and green waste.

Ratepayers have until Oct. 10 to officially object to the hike.

The increase won’t go into effect if more than 50 percent of ratepayers within the Cambria Community Services District protest in writing before a hearing on that date. That process is mandated by California’s Proposition 218, which says people who would pay those higher rates must have enough time to learn about the proposed increases before they go into effect, also giving the ratepayers an opportunity to file protests.

The protest count and the decision from ratepayers about the rate increase would be announced at the CSD’s Oct. 10 meeting.

In Cambria, Mission Country provides three tiers of residential rates based on the size of the garbage container. According to information shared at the CSD board’s Aug. 15 meeting, the proposed increase — which would offset such fiscal factors as Mission Country’s increased fuel and operating costs and vastly lowered income from the sale of recycled materials — would range from:

• $4.99 a month (for the 32-gallon waste wheeler, the smallest size, monthly rate increased to $24.72 from $19.73) to

• $9.32 a month (for the largest 96-gallon container, $46.15 from $36.83).

Jeff Smith, Mission Country’s general manager, told the CSD directors at the meeting that the market for recyclables has nearly collapsed worldwide and many of the state’s recycling centers, where consumers could turn in and get paid for certain recyclable materials, have closed. Cambria’s center on Tamsen Drive, is still open.

Smith said the firm’s labor costs nearly doubled, in part because of “wishful recycling,” when people put items they think are recyclable, but which are not, into their recycling bins.

A new app, RecycleRight SLO County, helps people determine what is and is not recyclable, hopefully before they toss the item into the blue bin. Or go to www.iwma.org.

Mission Country’s proposed rate hikes could have been a few dollars higher each month for each ratepayer, but the CSD board on Aug. 15 decided unanimously not to increase the 6 percent franchise fee it receives from the garbage company. The directors did, however, unanimously approve letting Mission Country proceed with the public-information mailing about the rate increases.

A 10 percent fee had been proposed, which is more in line with what the disposal company pays most other communities it serves in San Luis Obispo County, according to William Statler, a consultant who reviewed Mission Country’s proposal.

The higher franchise fee would have gone toward paying to clean up homeless encampments on district properties and maintain 163 parcels of undeveloped land owned by CCSD. According to the Aug. 15 agenda packet, keeping those open lots more fire safe and “the cleanup and removal of trash and debris from homeless encampments has resulted in significant unanticipated costs to the CCSD and has severely impacted district staff,” especially in the facilities and resources department, which spends about 10 percent of its time on those tasks. District staff estimates it costs more than $56,000 a year to maintain the lots and between $5,000 and $25,000 per location to clean up a homeless encampment.

After studying the rate-proposal stats, Statler told the board said he was “comfortable with the rate increase that’s before you,” noting that countywide, “you are the furthest away from the disposal sites” to which Mission Country’s trucks haul the trash, recyclables and green waste.

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