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Cities strike deal with county to lower garbage fees

Garbage rates in Ceres may drop slightly following the approval of a new 10-year agreement Stanislaus County over garbage disposal tipping fees.

Recently the city of Turlock negotiated with the county in an attempt to get rates competitive with the city of Merced, which has been taking Turlock waste for nearly two years. Those negotiations "opened the door" for all the cities to inquire about rates that are "a little more competitive," said Ceres City Manager Toby Wells.

Lower fees are being realized in the 10-year agreement because the county will be using rate stabilization funds that have been collected over the years.

Wells said Ceres might realize a modest 50-cents-per-month drop in rate, but said garbage rates paid by Ceres residents are based on collection, transportation and disposal costs. With other costs going up, he added, "we wouldn't anticipate really at this point having any savings to the rates."

"This is an arrangement that works better for us," said Wells. "The fact that we end up paying a little less in the front end - we will lose some rebates that we were getting - but we pay less in the front end overall costs to the system."

Garbage from Ceres homes is hauled to the Fink Road Landfill or the waste to energy plant.

The 10-year agreement requires the cities of Ceres, Hughson, Turlock, Patterson and Newman to guarantee 90 percent of its solid waste to county sites with 62 percent mandated to go to the waste to energy center and the remaining 38 percent to the Fink Road Landfill. Ceres is expected to send 17,502 tons of garbage per year to the county facilities. The guarantee is in place so that Covanta Stanislaus, Inc., may operate the waste-to-energy plant in Crows Landing. The plant burns about 260,000 tons of trash per year while operating a 23.5-megawatt electrical generator to produce enough power for 20,000 homes. The plant also recovers about 5,000 tons of metal each year.

Although the Stanislaus County contract is slightly more expensive than Merced County, Turlock staff recommended the agreement with Stanislaus County because it allows for the continued existence of a valuable solid waste program in Turlock's home county. This contributes to the long-term economic interests of the area, noted Cooke. Also, the Stanislaus County agreement provides services for necessary programs and reports that Merced County does not.

The waste-to-energy plant disposal rates will be $33.78 per ton for the 2015-16 year, and go up modestly to $43 per ton in 10 years. The tipping fee at Fink Road will go from $26 per ton in 2015-16 to $29 by the year 2024-25.