St. Helens residents are now paying more for to have their garbage hauled away and recycling.
The St. Helens City Council has approved the three percent garbage and recycling rates which, when coupled with the disposal fee changes at the Columbia County Transfer Station, results in an overall increase of about four percent. The resolution is effective retroactively to July 1.
During the council action on July 17, Mayor Rick Scholl provided the example of his own rates during the work session, sharing that his typical bill of $55 per month would raise to $57 per month.
The council also passed a resolution to increase Planning Department fees by 1.8 percent, which will affect numerous aspects of land use such as applying for a conditional use permit, a temporary use permit, a site development review, an annexation, a sign permit, or other land uses.
City Planner Jacob Graichen explained during the work session that the increase was a basic increase to keep up with inflation and reflects the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Herb Bailey, District Manager with Hudson Garbage, explained the reasoning behind the rate increase request at the work session, saying that it is to keep up with increased operational costs.
The resolution states that Hudson Garbage has not requested living rate adjustments since 2010.
“This is the first time in a long time that we’ve requested a general price increase, not related to last year when we asked for help with commodities,” Bailey said during the work session.
Hudson Garbage documents indicate that in May of 2018, the company received a 6.4 percent increase in garbage and recycling rates. That increase was due to the “National Sword” policy that China implemented in 2017, Bailey said. That policy made it so that the quality of recyclable materials that China would accept would be much higher than they previously accepted, Bailey explained.
“The cost to process recycling went up considerably,” Bailey said, the rate increase last year “helped us absorb some of that and do the right thing, keep this stuff out of our landfills.”
This year’s increase is about keeping up with the rising cost of everything that affects the company.
“The minimum wage is increasing, operation cost of fuel, our total operations costs are just going up, maintenance, oils, everything has kind of risen,” Bailey said.
Bailey also said that the rate increase is a conservative estimate, and that he preferred to request an incremental increase, rather than a “sticker shock” increase of six or seven percent later on.
During the work session, Bailey said that educating their customers is a big factor in having a more efficient recycling system. He asaid that the system has seen some improvements, with fewer plastic grocery bags in the recycling bins.
“Our product’s cleaner. It’s just going to take some more time, and a lot more help form our community,” Bailey said.