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Garbage rates may be hiked
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The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors recently increased the cost of dumping trash at the county's waste-to-energy plant, from $25 per ton to $28 per ton effective last August. Since 77 percent of Ceres' waste goes to the westside facility, the city's garbage contractor, Bertolotti-Ceres Disposal, has asked to be able to pass along the extra costs onto customers. To do that, the City Council must hold a public hearing. It is set for Monday, Dec. 10.

The proposed rate hike would take effect on Jan. 1 and cause rates to jump 45 cents per month for a 90-gallon commercial and residential wastewheeler, from $18.70 to $19.15 per month. The rate for the 60-gallon wastewheeler would jump 35 cents, from $14.75 to $15.10 per month. The rate for the 60-gallon can at mobilehome parks would increase 30 cents, from $11.40 to $11.70 per month.

The proposed increase would raise the cost of a one-yard bin collected once per week from $39.37 to $40.27 per month.

Before the council set their hearing for Dec. 10, Ceres resident Steve Breckenridge challenged two "unnamed" councilmen to recuse themselves from the vote on the basis that they accepted campaign funds from Bertolotti.

"The two of you know who you are," said Breckenridge, who just lost his bid to seek a council seat.

Both Vice Mayor Rob Phipps and Councilman Guillermo Ochoa accepted $1,000 contributions from Bertolotti in their council re-election bids. Breckenridge suggested that both officials would have difficulty making an objective decision because of the contributions.

"It would take more than a thousand dollars to change my vote," said Phipps. "That's all I'm gonna say."

Phipps died unexpectedly on Sunday.

Ochoa tagged on Phipps' remark, offering: "It would take more than a million dollars."

Phipps asked City Attorney Mike Lyions if the contributions constituted a legal conflict of interest. Lyions said that the state Fair Political Practices law does not consider campaign contributions as reason for recusing one's self from a vote.

The county increased the tipping fee at the waste-to-energy plant to comply with the mandates of AB 939, a state law passed in the 1990s to deal with reducing waste.