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Garbage bills to edge up a bit higher
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Bertolotti Ceres Disposal was awarded an eight-year contract Monday evening for garbage collection services in Ceres. City Council members also slightly raised the cost of garbage service to residents.

At least one resident publicly questioned why the city wasn't interested in seeking bids from other firms to see if savings could be realized. "It seems to me we should be ... going out to bid for it and see who has the best bid," said Leonard Shepherd of Ceres.

Glenn Gebhardt, city engineer who is also acting Public Works director, said that the city has been very happy with the service provided by Bertolotti for the past 39 years and noted "we get very few complaints." Kay Dunkel, the city's Administrative Analyst, said a check of rates in nearby cities are at the same rates or slightly lower. She also noted that Bertolotti's pricing is competitive considering that his level of service includes the blue recycling Toter program.

Councilman Chris Vierra answered Shepherd and said services are competitively priced and noted company owner Bert Bertolotti is "not complacent" about his quality of service. "Like the old adage says, why fix it when it's not broken?," said Vierra.

No one spoke up at Monday's public hearing about several small rate increases folded into the eight-year contract.

The city proposed a 17-cent increase on the 96-gallon wastewheeler and 11-cent increase on the 64-gallon wastewheeler. A 50-cent-per-cubic-yard increase will be implemented for large bins. The new rates will take effect on July 1.

The current rate for the 60-gallon wastewheeler is $15.22 per month and will increase to $15.33; the 90-gallon jumps from $19.32 to $19.49 per month.

The city sought the increase as a way of paying for occasional community and/or neighborhood clean-up efforts. The rate increase covers the cost of having Bertolotti collect up to 150 tons of debris per year during clean-up efforts.

The other part of the increase gets the city off the hook for the costs of disposing debris picked up by street sweepers and dropped off at Bertolotti's yard. The city's general fund has been funding $11,900 of these costs while $28,100 has been coming from water and sewer funds. Now ratepayers are being asked to bear the $40,000 annual expense.

Website pay system

In other action, the City Council awarded an agreement with InfoSend Inc., of Fullerton to provide an electronic bill payment website linked with the city's website. The council also approved an agreement to have the firm of Electronic Payment Exchange (EPX) to handle credit card, debit and checking account payment of city utiliy bills.

The city is hopeful that at least 10 percent of city customers will be paying their bills through the website once it's up and running, probably by July 5. The website is intended to reduce the last-minute crush of late payments at the City Hall counter at the end of the billing cycle, said Farren Williams, the city's IT manager.