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Garbage rate increases OK’d after protests fall far short
Garbage cans lined up

Following Monday’s protest hearing the Ceres City Council approved increases in garbage collection rates related a host of new state mandates on recycling.

The city received only 38 written protests, a far cry from the 6,502 – or half – required under Prop. 218 since 13,003 households are affected.

The city contracts with Bertolotti Ceres Disposal for garbage pickup and disposal services. Rates have remained the same since 2012, however, are going up because of laws passed by the state Legislature and signed into law by the governor mandating the recycling of organic wastes and recyclable materials.

Public Works Director Jeremy Damas explained the bills, including AB 939 which mandates cities and counties to adopt plans to divert at least half of the solid waste stream to recycling efforts. Ceres’ current diversion rate is 15 percent.

Senate Bill 341 requires the mandatory commercial recycling for those establishments that generate at least four cubic yard of solid waste each week to arrange for recycling services.

Ab 1826 mandates the recycling of organics, such as food, green and soiled paper wastes, for businesses. It also requires the state to increase edible food recovery by 20 percent by 2025.

AB 827 also requires businesses like fast-food restaurants to provide containers for customers to deposit organics and recycling wastes.

To meet the new state mandates, the city plans to go to a three-can system on Jan. 1, 2022 which forces Bertolotti to purchase 12,000 new containers and buy two new trucks. Those added costs will be passed onto the ratepayers over five years, beginning on Jan. 1, 2021. A second increase will follow on Sept. 1, 2021. Additional five percent increases are expected to follow on Jan. 1, 2022, Jan. 1, 2023 and Jan. 1, 2024. Damas said the first increase amounts to an extra $5 per month on the monthly garbage bill.

The city sent out 13,000 notices to Ceres households notifying residents of the rate increases in early October.

One citizen named Robert questioned hitting residents with a rate increase when state regulations have ended jobs for so many due to COVID-19. He was mistaken, however, about the amount of the increase, thinking it was a $100 increase. Mayor Chris Vierra set the record straight, that the increase is only $5 the first year.

“This is an unfunded mandate,” said Councilman Channce Condit. “This is something that is being pushed on us and forced upon us by the state of California and frankly if the state would like to implement these programs they should come up with a better way to pay for it, or at least assist our cities in a better way.” 

Current 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 on Jan. 1.

In September 2021 the rates would jump to $32.93 per month for garbage service. Damas said that second rate increase would be timed for the arrival of the third waste can in October 2021.

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. 

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 council pressed Damas to find ways to keep the city’s popular year round leaf and limb collection program. Mayor Chris Vierra said he wants the service to continue out of concerns for city aesthetics.