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The City Council, at its July 20 regular session, approved an 8.5% residential and commercial rate increase.

COURTESY PHOTO: HUDSON GARBAGE SERVICE - Garbage trucks like this one pick up waste put out by St. Helens customers.Only weeks after St. Helens approved utility fee increases, the city is also upping its recycling and garbage collection rates.

The St. Helens City Council approved a recycling and garbage fee increase at its July 20 regular session.

Hudson Garbage Service, which is owned by Waste Connections, handles garbage service throughout Columbia County and operates the county transfer station. Waste Connections purchased Hudson Garbage Service over 20 years ago.

While the city approved utility rate increases due to the cost of maintaining and operating the city's water, sewer and stormwater systems, economic factors, including inflationary pressures, prompted a rate increase for Hudson Garbage.

Hudson Garbage requested an 8.5% residential and commercial rate increase, which the council approved July 20.

The rate increase, which kicked in Aug. 1 for St. Helens, includes all services provided by Hudson Garbage Service.

Josh Brown, district manager for Hudson Garbage Service, cited a number of reasons for the increase, including the rising cost of fuel.

"We've seen diesel fuel costs, a 65 percent increase year over year," he said. "Columbia County also implemented an 8½ percent disposal increase at the transfer station. That's what we pay Columbia County, per ton, to drop off the trash that we collect in the cities."

Another big factor facing Hudson is the cost of labor.

"Garbage and recycling collectors are essential and it's a very competitive labor market right now," Brown said, noting that his company competes with driver, mechanic and customer service wages out of Portland and Longview, Washington.

"Keeping our qualified people that we have on our team is critical to the collection service," Brown said.

Supply chain shortages also played a role in seeking a rate increase.

"We've really struggled getting containers, getting parts, getting steel, and more importantly, getting and buying trucks," Brown said, noting that all that trucks his company has attempted to purchase have been delayed, sometimes 12 to 18 months, or more.

"All in all, it's a different year than most, when we come before the councils and request rate increases," he said.

Brown said he appreciates the support he has received from cities in Columbia County.

"I wanted to thank the cities of St. Helens, Columbia City, Rainier and Clatskanie, as well as Columbia County," he said. "They are our partners. We can't do it without them, and this is a very difficult year for us. What we requested was typically far above normal."

Brown continued, "It does keep our business sustainable. It allows us to buy more equipment and continue the compensate and pay the hard-working garbage and recycling workers out there that are collecting every day, rain or snow."

A St. Helens spokesperson framed the increases as unfortunate but inevitable.

"The city understands that rate increases are necessary for utilities, including garbage and recycling services, to continue to meet the increasing cost of doing business over time," said Crystal King, city communications officer.

King continued, "While no one ever likes to hear that their bills are increasing, if the rates are gradually increased from year to year to meet the average cost of living increases rather than as one large increase every five or 10 years, bill-payers can more easily budget for the small increase."

Brown gave thanks to his workers, especially considering economic factors facing Hudson and many businesses.

"I can't thank our team enough for what they do," he said. "We've tried to remain competitive and increase our wages, to pay the folks out in the field what they deserve and what they're worth."

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