MONMOUTH — The Monmouth City Council approved on June 19 two utility rate raises and a recycling surcharge.
“This is going to be a rare time when I say a foreign country affects something in Monmouth,” said City Manager Scott McClure. “What happened just recently is China internationally rejected recyclables, so everybody is disrupted across our country and actually globally.”
He said some places have stopped providing recycling services and others are making adjustments to compensate for the resulting loss in revenue.
“In the case of Brandt’s, where it used to make a little bit of money, it’s a double whammy,” McClure said. “You lose the small revenue stream that was there and then now it has to go into landfills so now you pay tipping charges.”
The change costs Brandt’s Sanitary, which provides solid waste and recycling services to Monmouth, between $7,000 and $9,000 each month.
To help compensate for that, Brandt’s requested a $1.90 recycling surcharge for all customers.
Councilor Laurel Sharmer asked if anything was planned to educate consumers about waste minimization.
“We have some things in place,” said Joshua Brandt, of Brandt’s Sanitary Service. “We’ve been a little bit slower than other haulers, in the sense of getting the appropriate things out to our customers.”
He was hoping there would be a market so they would not have to implement a surcharge.
“We also have an opportunity, if the cities deem it necessary, to have a meeting at a facility big enough to handle it,” Brandt said.
Brandt said he and Clay Warner, of Garten Services, would speak with community members.
“That’s a backup if the community seems interested, if not, we’re going to stick to publications and media,” Brandt said.
Sharmer asked Brandt what percent of plastic grocery store bags make up Monmouth’s solid waste.
Brandt said he does not have a percentage, but those bags are a “major concern.”
He said the reason Brandt’s does not accept grocery store bags for recycling is that they get stuck in the augers of the sorting machines.
“About a month and half ago, garbage services was shut down for six days, forcing us to look at other outlets to use our comingle,” Brandt said.
Sharmer asked Brandt if he would be in favor of Monmouth banning plastic bags, the way Corvallis did.
Brandt said it would be a major help to them. He compared the plastic bag issue to the issue of to-go boxes they dealt with years ago.
Though the to-go boxes were made to be recycled, they were not recyclable after they had food in them because of contamination.
The council unanimously approved the surcharge.
Councilor Byron Shinkle asked if they could revisit the issue again in six months.
The council also passed a 10 percent water rate increase, with Sharmer voting no.
“The current snapshot of the water fund is that operating expenses can be covered, but there are not enough funds to cover work on the Willamette Well Field, installation of filters to address a compliance issue with Marion County well No. 1, and the Highway 99 water line relocation,” McClure said in a report to the council.
He said the rate adjustment would increase revenues by about $170,000.
“The monthly rate change on a typical home would be about $4.04. The impact on a typical Monmouth business would range from $4.61 to $11.90 per month,” he said.
Council approved a 5 percent rate increase on the electric utility, with Sharmer voting no.
In a report to council, McClure said the last increase for the Power and Light fund was in 2008.
“The current financial status of the Power and Light Fund is solid,” McClure said, “but (it) has been weakened by absorbing multiple BPA rate increases, MINET debt payments and significant capital projects.”
Power and Light is “currently covering all of its operating, capital and debt service needs, but would dip below its reserve target without a rate increase.”
The 5 percent increase is expected to generate about $226,000 in revenue.
According to McClure’s report, the average home will see a $6 a month increase; small businesses will see a $9 increase and large businesses will see a $403 increase.