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Ceres City Council orders protest hearing for garbage rate increase
Ceres garbage cans
The city plans to raise monthly rates for garbage service to meet the mandates of state requirements for processing of recyclables and organics.

The Ceres City Council has scheduled a public hearing for the Sept. 28 meeting for the increase of garbage rates.

State laws regarding recycling and organics are giving the city no option other than increase garbage rates as well as amend its 10-year-old contract with garbage hauler Bertolotti Ceres Disposal.

Some of the changes will include going to a three-can system for all households as of Jan. 1, 2022 and doing away with the leaf and limb program. Rate increases would commence Jan. 1, 2021.

Rates have not been raised since 2012.

Under Prop. 218, rate increases must first undergo a protest hearing set for Monday, Nov. 23. The protest hearing allows citizens to object to a rate hike, but under Prop. 218 at least half of affected residents must object to stop such an increase. Notices will be mailed to residents Oct. 1.

Also proposed is a 7 percent increase in rates for commercial accounts. Much of that increase is to help the city and Bertolotti meet the mandates of processing organic wastes and recyclable materials and their associated costs.

Public Works Director Jeremy Damas explained that recyclables were worth something several years ago but now it’s costing Bertolotti $60 per ton to dispose of recyclable materials.

Currently residential garbage collection rates in Ceres are $21.16 per month for a 90-gallon Toters, which includes a $16.90 garbage fee, $1.74 fee for recyclables and $2.52 for organics and a small portion for street sweeping dumping, and the leaf and limb and bulky item programs. Those rates will increase to $26.32 per month this fall, which includes an extra $1 per month to cover the city’s costs of cleaning up and disposing of illegal dumping.  The new charge is one of the recommendations of the new Beautification Committee.

In September 2021 the rates would jump to $31.77 per month for garbage service. Damas said that second rate increase would be timed with the end of the leaf-and-limb program in exchange of a third waste-wheeler in January 2022.

Seven dollars of the increase is caused by the state mandate to expand the recycling of organics which is causing Bertolotti to buy 12,000 new garbage cans. 

In four years Ceres residents will be paying nearly double for garbage service than what they are presently paying. Vice Mayor Linda Ryno voiced that while it may be a tough pill to swallow she noted that compared to what neighboring cities are charging “I really don’t think it’s that bad.”

Provisions with lower pricing will be offered to residents who want to get by with a 60-gallon household waste can. Garbage rates for those with a 60-gallon container will increase from $16.44 to $21.60 per month.

Under the three-can system, recyclables such as cardboard, phone books, magazines and newsprint, brown paper bags, glass bottles and jars, plastic containers, office paper, empty aerosol cans and certain plastics go into the blue can. The green can will be for the deposit of organic wastes like yard and garden waste, lawn clippings, leaves, limbs, coffee grounds, fruit, leftover foods, meat, paper towels and plates and small pieces of wood. The black can will be for household waste that doesn’t belong in either the organic or recycling cans.

The fee increase would help Bertolotti hire more staff, buy more equipment and purchase 12,000 new Toters for Ceres residents.

Damas said the proposed rates are comparable rates to what other cities are charging.

Damas said residents will still have the option of using the bulky item pick-up service as well as haul tree branches and trunks to the Bertolotti transfer station themselves. 

Under the changes, anyone cutting up a tree and placing it at the curbside will be deemed an illegal dumper and asked to deal with it. If not, the city would be forced to clean it up.

The Christmas Tree collection program will continue under the new contract.

Residents can refuse to take the new cans but will face an audit of trash by the city, said Damas.

Vierra said he still wants some kind of leaf and limb program for those disposing of large tree waste, saying “we’re asking for a big problem.” He said residents will conclude that rates are going up but getting less service.

“I think we still need to offer that service and I don’t know if that means the rates have to be a little more or what,” said Mayor Vierra. “That’s just me personally.”

Damas said the current leaf and limb program is now costing Ceres households $3 per month to cover costs. He also said Bertolotti would be okay with accepting tree limbs if delivered to their yard.

Initially the leaf and limb program was offered seasonably but became an every-two-weeks pickup schedule during the fall and winter.

Continuing with the leaf and limb program would add more to the costs, said Damas.

The new contract with the company calls for Bertolotti to provide bins for community cleanups.