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Refuse costs to increase
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City officials are so happy with the garbage collection service provided by Bertolotti Ceres Disposal that the council doesn't really care to feel out other companies to see about any potential competitive contracts.

At a recent council Study Session City Council members rejected the idea of seeking Requests for Proposals from other firms.

"The city has been with Bertolotti for over 40 years so they are very happy with the service," said Glenn Gebhardt, city engineer who is also acting Public Works director.

The council was asked to weigh in on the contract with the local garbage collector since it had last been modified in 2003. Members agreed on several modifications, some of which will slightly bump up customers' bills.

Gebhardt said the City Council will be conducting a public hearing at 7 p.m. on March 22 on adopting 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 would be implemented for large bins. If approved, the new rates would take effect on July 1.

The city is seeking an increase as a way of paying for occasional community and/or neighborhood clean-up efforts. The rate increase would cover the costs of having Bertolotti collect up to 150 tons of debris per year during clean-up efforts.

Higher rates are being proposed to get 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.

The contract is not asking to any changes to the way garbage is picked up in Ceres, said Gebhardt. He said that for now city officials are content not to have the three-can system used in some cities, including Turlock and Waterford. In those communities residents have a can for household waste, one can for comingled recyclables and one can for green waste. The city of Ripon allows residents to chose if they want the green waste can.

He said a three-can system is not being proposed at the present time "because the economy is difficult and it would be an extra charge for people and there's not a strong cry from the community for that extra can."

Currently Ceres residents have the option to compost their own yard waste or dump grass clippings into the wastewheeler.

City of Ceres recycling coordinator Kay Dunkel said the leaf and limb program - now year round - has been convenient for many folks.

Ceres' green waste policy has occasionally caused problems with street sweepers. Larger sticks and leaves may be placed at the curb. Lawn clippings are not permitted in the street at the curb. However, many times the street sweeper is not able to sweep against a curb because of the presence of a pile of green waste preventing a passing sweep. And when it rains, some waste washes into the storm drain grate.

Dunkel said at some point the state Water Resources Control Board may require the city to go to containerized yard waste as a way of keeping debris out of the storm drain system.

Gebhardt also said that if the state demands cities to develop higher waste diversion rates, the city may be forced to go to a third can.

Legislation passed in the form of AB 939 in 1989 forced all California cities to divert at least half of the waste stream to recycling efforts. Ceres and Stanislaus County have collectively done that, said Dunkel.