Second increase at Moffat County landfill pushes city to raise trash fees
December 18, 2018
CRAIG — When the page turns on the New Year — and for the second year in a row — the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners will raise landfill rates.
The increase will see solid waste disposal rates move from $35 to $45 per ton for Craig and Moffat County residents, municipalities, commercial, and industrial customers.
The $10-per-ton rate increase was set to happen at the beginning of 2018, but after discussions with one of their largest customers — the city of Craig — county commissioners decided to spread the increase over two years.
The city of Craig absorbed the first $5 per ton increase at a cost of about $40,000 to $50,000, from reserves in the solid waste fund, said City Manager Peter Brixius.
"We will spend down the reserves in 2018. Not anything that puts us in jeopardy," he said.
The additional charges implemented by the county in 2019 are projected to cost the city’s solid waste fund between $80,000 and $100,000 per year.
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"It neutralizes about 10 percent of our customer base, or between 300 and 400 customers," Brixius said.
Unable to absorb further increases, the Craig City Council has proposed a $2 per month increase in fees, bringing the cost of collection and landfill to residents to $22 per month per residential trashcan beginning in January.
The increase will be the city's first since 2009.
That is, if the city council passes ordinance No. 1082 (2018) to adopt new landfill fees for residential and commercial refuse collection, which was introduced at its Dec. 11 meeting.
The city solid waste fund — an enterprise zone — operates separately from the city’s general fund.
Taxes do not pay for the service; instead, it operates with revenues generated solely by ratepayers and works much like a business, Brixius explained.
The proposed increase will generate about $95,000, said City Finance Director Bruce Nelson.
After the ordinance was introduced, council member Chris Nichols asked about competition from companies operating outside the county.
While there is concern that some customers may choose to leave the city for Twin Enviro Services — a company with a landfill in Milner that offers residential solid waste services at an introductory rate of $15 per month — city staff are hopeful their customer service will keep them competitive.
When competitors began offering low introductory prices in Moffat County, it initially resulted in some loss of business, particularly in the rental of large construction dumpsters, which has only recently started to trend upward, Brixius said.
"We welcome all competitors into the marketplace," he added.
However, the city does expect any trucks hauling trash through Craig to pass inspections intended to keep waste material "from dripping on the street,” Brixius said. He acknowledged "we haven't kept up with those inspections."
Council member Andrea Camp asked about the impact of recycling on landfill fees. Currently, the city has a recycling collection center on the north side of town to gather aluminum, plastic, paper, and cardboard at a cost of $60,000.
“That goes out of the fund, and we don't recoup it,” said Road and Bride Director Randy Call.
Increasing recycling services would divert waste from the landfill, but city staff believes such an increase is too costly for most Craig residents.
“Cities, in general, looks at the tolerance of cost. Curbside recycling is pretty costly and would require additional equipment,” Brixius said.
Council will consider first reading of the new trash rates at its Jan. 8 meeting and, after a published hearing, plan to vote on the second and final reading Jan. 22.
"It would be reflected in the first rates of the new year in bills that come out at the end January," Brixius said.
The 2019 increase might not be the last, as commissioners continue to struggle to balance their budget in light of declining tax revenues.
While once the landfill was subsidized by the general fund, that's no longer feasible.
"… costs increase. That's a part of the cost of doing business. The county has been, and will be looking for ways to maintain what we have," said BOCC Chairman Ray Beck. "Fees will probably continue to increase to cover the costs of operation and capital needs."
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.