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Ceres garbage collection costs to increase
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Ceres residents face higher costs for garbage collection due to an increase in the county tipping fee which is being passed off to residents.

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors approved a whopping tipping fee - from $28 per ton to $39 per ton - effective July 1. The increase was made to offset the deficit of running the Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plant which diverts about 90 percent of the county's waste stream away from landfills.

The WTE plant lost $3.5 million in fiscal year 2010-11 and $5 million in 2011-12.

Members of the Ceres City Council approved rate increases for Bertolloti-Ceres Disposal to charge because of the county increases.

Residents and businesses with a 90-gallon residential waste-wheeler will see costs jump from $19.49 per month to $21.16 per month, a $1.67 increase.

Those with 60-gallon waste-wheelers will see an increase from $15.33 per month to $16.44 per month, a 7.2 percent increase.

Mobile home residents with a 60-gallon waste-wheeler now pay $11.93 monthly. The rate will increase to $13.04, an increase of 9.3 percent.

Commercial bin users will also see rates increase. For example, a one cubic yard bin picked up once a week jumps in cost from $41.05 to $44.66 per month.

Also driving up costs of garbage service for businesses and some apartment complexes is a new state law rate in AB 341. It calls for multi-family complexes of five units or more, or businesses that generate four cubic yards or more of waste, to have recycling containers or bins on hand. Kay Dunkel, an administrative assistant with the city of Ceres, said apartment complexes may not have enough room to store a recycling bin and may opt to have one or more blue recycling Toters.

Businesses and apartments were not charged for recycling Toter service since costs were rolled into the existing solid waste fee collection structure, said Dunkel. About 15 that already have the service will be grandfathered in, but each new Toter will be charged at a rate of $7.65 per month.

Recycling containers for businesses and apartment complex are picked up every week while single-family residential pick up is every other week.

Mayor Chris Vierra said he hopes the county keeps auditing operations of the plant, saying "the county does have some of the highest rates in the region."

Supervisor Jim DeMartini was present at the June 25 council meeting and explained that the WTE plant, operated by Covanta Stanislaus, Inc., is not receiving as much revenue from generating electricity as it once did, about 2.5 cents versus 8 cents per killowatt. Besides incinerate the county's garbage - with clean smokestack releases to the atmosphere - the plant generates power which it sells to PG&E. DeMartini said Covanta allowed a prior electricity sale contract with PG&E to expire because the county was receiving 90 percent with Covanta receiving 10 percent "so they weren't interested in negotiating with PG&E."

DeMartini said two years ago the WTE plant had a $19 million reserve but since rates have plummeted, those reserves are being eaten away.

"We have to at least break even on this," said DeMartini. "We don't make any money on this thing. We just have to break even."

New state cap and trade legislation is expected to also drive up costs in the future, said DeMartini.

"We don't know what the impact of that is going to be," said DeMartini. "That could cost us a couple of million dollars."