By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

A rate increase and compost pickup by local sanitation companies will be the subject of a public hearing in front of the Keizer City Council.

The council agreed to hold a public hearing on the matter at its second regularly-scheduled June meeting.

Representatives from the Mid-Valley Garbage and Recycling Association touted the new composting program, but also asked for a 7 percent rate increase. For example, a home with a 20-gallon garbage can, with yard debris pickup, would see its bill rise from $15.93 bimonthly to $17.05 bimonthly. This includes biweekly compost pickup, which would be mixed in with the yard debris can (the green can).

Should weekly pickup of yard debris and compost begin, an additional $1.68 would be added to each bimonthly bill. Virtually any organic food and yard waste could be mixed in, including breads and grains, coffee filters, pizza boxes, seafood shells and bones, dairy products, egg shells, waxed cardboard boxes and yard debris. Items like animal waste, foil, free liquids, grease, metal, personal hygiene products and plastics will not be considered compost.

The rate increase would apply to residential commercials only. Commercial would not be affected. Estle Harlan, a solid waste management consultant for the association, said “confidential” documents had been submitted to the city that would illustrate why the increase is justified. The city has yet to respond to a public records request by the Keizertimes for these documents.

Harlan said the haulers simply weren’t making enough of a profit margin on residential customers, while the margin on commercial customers is “adequate and reasonable.

“The residential service, mostly because we’re picking up three carts, running three trucks down the road for every customer, is

showing … a margin that needs this increase of 7 percent,” Harlan said.

Applying a rate adjustment across the board “would only further perpetuate the subsidy” she said commercial businesses effectively give to residential customers via higher rates.

The last time garbage customers saw a bill increase was 2003, when the City of Keizer raised its franchise fee. According to City Manager Chris Eppley, the “basic cost of service” to customers has not gone up since 1992.

Adjustments to the rate structure have been made since then, he said, but only when new services were added, like yard debris pickup.

But what drew most of the council’s attention Monday afternoon was the proposed composting program.

The association’s members – in Keizer, they are Loren’s Sanitation and Valley Recycling and Disposal – wish to debut the program in July in conjunction with a new composting program in Salem.

Compost pickup would be available to every household. For multi-family residences and larger-scale commercial customers, a pilot program would be launched, Harlan said.

“What this program boils down to is not putting it in the garbage, but putting it in the green cart,” said Mary Kanz, the association’s executive director.

She said the association has studied compost pickup programs in several states and “learned what to do and what not to do.

Compost would be taken to a facility in Corvallis. Currently, garbage in Marion County is incinerated.

“You’ll help out the system a lot,” said Kanz.

Eppley said the incinerator is running “pretty close to capacity, and as we all know landfills are not the greatest option. … Using techniques like this actually allows us to extend the time our facilities can operate without constructing new ones … and helps rates.”

A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for Monday, June 21, before the Keizer City Council.