Garbage fees to go up in January

Garbage dumping fees are about to go up next year after the county’s supervisors voted Tuesday to raise rates a few dollars, or eight percent, a month per ton of garbage—from $68.50 a ton to $74 a ton for municipal waste—beginning in January. Rates for construction debris will also go up—from $50 a ton to $74 a ton—a 48 percent increase. Dumping fees for organic waste, such as tree branches, lawn clippings, etc., will no longer be free and will now cost $5 per load.

This is not likely to be the last time the fee goes up, either. Although the fee increases will help, adding about $218,000 a year to the solid waste enterprise fund, the fund will still need more money to reach—and stay—in the black. But it was a number the supervisors agreed would be palatable at this point and they voted accordingly.

The county has been bleeding money from its solid waste enterprise fund ever since the recession hit and construction activity dropped off precipitously.

More construction means more garbage, and construction debris disposal fees once paid for the cost of getting rid of the stuff.

But that stopped when the recession hit and the economy of scale advantage was erased.

The county started to address the issue two years ago, and put a Band-Aide on the wound by raising rates minimally and cutting costs and services to the “bare bones,” hoping the economy would improve and construction would pick up.

That didn’t happen, at least not enough to keep up with the costs—hence the rate increase this Tuesday.

In the meantime, the biggest landfill in the county, the Benton Crossing landfill, is living on borrowed time with a lease from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power set to expire in 2023—with no hope of renewal. LADWP has made it clear to the county that the agency is not interested in hosting a working landfill on its property any longer than necessary.

But selecting another, local landfill site comes with a huge headache. There has been only one landfill permitted in the state in 30 years, according to state data, meaning finding a location for another landfill is next to impossible in the state, mostly due to strict environmental regulations that are both costly and time consuming to address. If a landfill was found, and all the permits were approved, both creating, running and monitoring the landfill will be very expensive, which is why the county has struggled with this issue for years, now. Solutions such as hauling garbage to Nevada, increasing recycling so less waste is generated (and as is now required by state law) and other solutions have been—and still are—on the table.

The county is also working with the Town of Mammoth Lakes to find a solution that will serve both agencies.

Note: This article was revised on Friday a.m.. Dec. 14, from the printed article, with additional details added to this online version.