In even-numbered years, solid waste hauler Thompson’s Sanitary Service is eligible for a two-year adjustment based on the consumer price index, calculated as 3.57 percent on their various rates, City Manager Spencer Nebel informed the Newport City Council at its regular meeting Monday evening.
“The franchise agreement provides that … rates shall be adjusted in an amount equal to 85 percent of the two-year percentage change in the consumer price index,” Nebel explained.
However, Thompson’s offered to defer that rate until later in the fiscal year as the economy moves back toward stabilization, Nebel told council. “They want to do their part in holding down costs for our residents.
“This generous offer from Thompson’s will allow the company to share some of the financial burden of the response to the crisis, while still providing the critical solid waste services needed by the community,” Nebel added.
“We want to be partners with the community, and we understand we are all in this together,” Thompson’s Sanitary Service President Rob Thompson related to the News-Times by email. “As part of that, it seems that there are many community members that are suffering financially as well as in other ways. The adjustment that is part of our agreement is automatic and scheduled to take effect July 1 of every other year.
“Due to the uncertainty with the pandemic, as well as the financial crisis we are experiencing, we suggested to the city that, while the process is to be followed, we would like some leeway in determining when it made sense as a neighbor and as part of this community to actually implement this adjustment in our rates. We assured the council that we would provide 30 days notice so that our customers could plan accordingly,” Thompson wrote.
Thompson’s did seek approval of two specific rate adjustments already implemented, including medical disposal rates.
In the June 1 letter accompanying Thompson’s 2020 Rate Review, made part of the city council meeting agenda packet, it was pointed out that rates for medical disposal increased significantly in November 2019. “We have, thus far, absorbed the cost as a courtesy to the county residents and the hospitals of the frontline of the COVID crisis, however, we will now require an interim rate increase to manage the change in disposal rates. The new rates have resulted in a 137.5 percent increase in disposal costs for TSS, as well as new requirements for handling of the material, increasing our costs even more,” Thompson wrote to Nebel.
Thompson’s also sought a rate adjustment for junk removal. “After a multi-year review of the TSS Junk Removal program, it has come to our attention that the previous disposal rates did not always account for the actual cost of disposal. As such, we are requesting a rate adjustment in order to account for the waste generated by the customer base for this program,” Thompson’s letter explained.
Thomson outlined the rate: $33.45 for disposal of loads under 500 pounds, and a rate of $150 per ton for loads over 500 pounds. “This rate adjustment would account for the true cost of disposal for waste generated by the customer and would be an appropriate pass-through expense as outlined in the city code,” he wrote.
Nebel reported the last change in rates was in 2018. Upon Nebel’s recommendation, the city council voted to approve the increase for medical waste and junk removal fees, as well as the approved rate increase at a later date with 30 days notice by Thompson’s.
City Council President Ryan Parker expressed some frustration at the across-the-board increases, saying those who produce less trash should be rewarded. “What I hear from the constituents, especially retired persons, is that they have three bins they never fill.”
Parker suggested the city play a more active role and be a better example in how it purchases material and reducing its own packaging. He noted there is no “plan B” for another landfill. “Oregon’s population continues to increase and garbage production and waste down streaming continues to increase,” Parker said. “I think we need to look at a way to better inform the public, who just assume it’s someone else’s job to pick up their trash after either they litter or the cart goes away,” he elaborated. “But we all know there is no away.”