Council approves 4 percent to 6 percent hike to take place Aug. 1

The Wilsonville City Council on July 15 approved a 4 percent to 6 percent increase in local garbage and recycling collection rates, despite concerns over whether the hike actually is necessary.

The council voted 4-1 to approve the increase requested by local franchisee Republic Services. It will take effect Aug. 1 for both residential and commercial customers. Residents will see increases of up to 4 percent, while commercial accounts will pay up to 6 percent more.

In dollar terms, Wilsonville residential customers will pay an average of $26.19 per month for weekly garbage and recycling service after Aug. 1, while industrial customers will pay an average of $138.58. Currently, residential customers pay roughly $21 a month for a 20-gallon roll cart, $23.60 for a 35-gallon cart and $31.10 for a 65-gallon cart.

Residential rates will each rise 4 percent, while commercial and industrial rates, which vary widely depending on the size of collection container, will increase by up to 6 percent.

For example, an industrial customer with a 30-cubic-yard collection container now pays $136.25 a month for garbage service. With a 6 percent increase, the bill would rise to approximately $144.42 a month.

By comparison, Tualatin residential customers would pay $26.31 each on average if a similar rate increase request is approved by that city’s council. Meanwhile, Lake Oswego customers will be charged $27.11 on average under a new rate increase approved last month.

In Wilsonville, the council’s action came following a public hearing that was held over from June 17. At that time, councilors and Mayor Tim Knapp questioned the timing of the request, as well as the necessity of a rate hike that comes on the heels of a similar increase just two years ago.

Since then, Republic Services hosted a tour of its facilities for councilors to give a better overview of its expenses and services. That, said Councilor Scott Starr, went a long way toward mollifying him and council colleagues.

“We run a fine line here,” said Starr. “I’m never wanting to be the owner of a garbage company, and I don’t need to know everything, but I need to know enough to make a responsible decision for the people of this town, and that’s why I made that visit. We’re here to make sure we’re getting a good deal in the marketplace, and I feel we are.”

Last month, the differences in rate structures between Wilsonville, Lake Oswego and other nearby cities raised eyebrows among Wilsonville councilors and led to a request that company officials return with better documentation to support an increase.

In recent weeks, they did just that, explaining that different communities are charged differently based on a range of cost factors. They include, among others, the number of customers for each class of service, the amount of waste generated by the average customer, types and frequency of service offered, route density and distance.

In addition, Republic Services General Manager Derek Ruckman told councilors that rising fuel costs continue to chip away at revenues, while the price of recyclable commodities such as aluminum and paper continues to fall.

Further, the company is looking to replace its fleet of collection vehicles as older vehicles reach the end of their service lives. Eleven of those vehicles currently are used to service Wilsonville customers.

“I will tell you that one of the things that became pretty apparent to us through the analysis is that, truly, every market is unique,” Ruckman said. “There are different demographics that produce different pickup frequencies, different container sizes; we’ve been able to clarify a little bit of that in the staff report.”

Knapp remained unconvinced, however, and voted against the increase. He continued to question what Ruckman called an industry standard 8 percent to 12 percent rate of return for garbage and recycling collection franchise holders like Republic Services.

“I’m unclear as to who decided this is a standard,” Knapp said.

He also pointed to recent national press coverage predicting a “bright future” for waste haulers. In one article, Knapp said, a Republic Services representative told the interviewer the company is experiencing an accelerating profit level and 10 percent growth annually.

“That’s certainly not the case here locally,” Ruckman replied. “We have demonstrated what our costs are and our rate of return. As a company, we’re part of Republic Services, a nationwide organization, and I think our situation economically nationwide is looking better, but locally our rate of return is staying pretty consistent.”

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