By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer City Council will be voting on garbage service rate increases at its meeting Monday, Dec. 3, and it will likely come down to the best of difficult options.

Councilors opened a public hearing on the matter at its Nov. 19 meeting and it will be continued Monday with time for residents to chime in. Monday’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Keizer Civic Center.

Keizer’s two local haulers, Loren’s Sanitation Services and Valley Recycling and Disposal, are requesting an increase to garbage rates as a result of turmoil in recycling markets. Action by China – which once purchased the bulk of the West Coast’s recyclable materials – placed new limits on the contamination of accepted materials. The new contamination standards are difficult to meet while finding markets to pick up slack created by China’s exodus is a challenge.

For Loren’s Sanitation and Valley Recycling, the changes have come at substantial cost. John Sullivan, general manager at Loren’s Sanitation,  said the businesses are expecting a 1 percent profit margin in 2018, down from 10 percent in 2017.

Before China’s crackdown on contamination, haulers were paid about $20 per ton for recyclables that could be reclaimed for other purposes. As space to store the refuse tightened, disposing of recyclables went from being a revenue generator to a devastating expense. At its peak, haulers were charged up to $100 per ton, but it has settled into charges between $60 and $70 per ton since. In Keizer alone, haulers expect to pay more than $234,000 by the end of the year.

“We didn’t expect it to be that much, but we wanted to wait until the market evened out before asking for a rate increase,” Sullivan said.

In addition, haulers’ fueling costs are up 38 percent in the past year.

The rate increase options under consideration areas are as follows:

• Option 1– Increasing the costs of residential pick-up by 23 percent. Under this option, the bill for a residential family using a 35-gallon gray, solid waste container as well as a blue mixed recyclables, green yard debris and red glass bin would increase from $22.52 to 27.70.

• Option 2 – Increasing the cost of residential and multi-family service by 19.75 percent and commercial service by 7.5 percent. For a residential customers, the monthly bill would increase from $22.52 to $26.97.

• Option 3 – A base $2.02 fee increase for accounts using commingled recycling along with a generalized 11.5 percent increase for residential, multi-family users. The commercial rate would increase by 7.5 percent. For residential customers, their bill would increase from $22.52 to $27.13. Other special services could also increase by roughly 11.5 percent under this plan.

The $2.02 rate was determined by averaging the costs of commingled recycling services across all residential customers.

At the last city council meeting, Sullivan said the haulers would prefer the second or third options over the first.

Councilors requested more time to digest the information and solicit additional public input at the December meeting.