Wrangell garbage and dump rates are higher, after the borough assembly passed a rate hike at its Tuesday (May 24) meeting. But how much higher depends on the customer, when it comes to garbage cans.
Borough Manager Jeff Good explained that Wrangell’s previous rates for garbage collection didn’t make sense – previously, a small (48-gallon) trash can was almost $20 less per month than a medium (64-gallon) can, while the difference between a medium and large can (96 gallons) was less than $10 per month.
“As you got more trash, [the rate] didn’t decrease, it kind of spiked at different rates,” Good said. “So this [rate increase] just gives much more of a fluid rate control for the weights and capacity of the trash.”
Good said the previous sanitation rate schedule wasn’t raising enough money to pay for upcoming projects. Sanitation department reserves are projected to be just under $158,000 at the end of the next fiscal year, but the borough has more than $10 million of projects and purchases needed in the next few decades to keep Wrangell’s trash moving. At the previous rates, the sanitation department was breaking even, or even losing money, Good said. New rates will hopefully fix that for years to come.
“If we stay on this track here with a 2% [rate] escalation per year, it will allow us to meet those capital expenses that we do have,” Good explained. “Maybe in Year 15, we’ll have a big capital expense, but 5, 10 years after that it will level back out again.”
Community member Don McConachie, Sr. told assembly members at their Tuesday meeting that he doesn’t have any issue raising garbage rates. But he wondered if the borough could be looking into different ways of disposing of garbage.
“[The rate increase is] something that probably has to be done because of rising costs,” McConachie said. “But there is another way of disposing of solid waste, and that is in a plasma burner, that could develop the byproducts which would end up as a revenue-maker for the city. So in my way of thinking it is a two-way street and a win-win for both of us.”
Reducing waste in a plasma burner – called plasma arc gasification – has been referenced as a way to reduce landfill footprints worldwide. The process uses electricity and high heat to turn waste into byproducts that can be reused or recycled, but can cost millions of dollars to set up. Wrangell’s assembly directed the borough manager to set up meetings with McConachie to discuss the possibility.
The sanitation rate increase approved by Wrangell’s assembly Tuesday (May 24) is part of a rash of public utility rate hikes since the beginning of the year, starting with electrical rates in February, followed by increases to port & harbor rates, water and sewer rates, and cemetery fees.
Also Tuesday, Wrangell’s borough assembly gave initial approval for an ordinance that would mandate the assembly review all utility rates and fees each year before passing an annual budget. The assembly will hold a public hearing on the proposed local code change on June 14.
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