Almanac

News - February 16, 2011

Atherton council, residents set to talk trash on Feb. 16

by Renee Batti

With an overflow crowd expected at Atherton's Feb. 16 public hearing on proposed new garbage rates that range from 63 percent to 98 percent in increases, the town has moved the meeting from the council chambers to the Holbrook-Palmer Park Pavilion.

The Atherton City Council meeting begins at 7 p.m., with the public hearing on the town's proposed rate agreement with its new garbage collection service, Recology, likely to begin at about 8 p.m.

Mayor Jim Dobbie said he and other council members have received numerous e-mails and other communications from residents unhappy over the proposed rates.

The proposal would increase the monthly cost of the typical Atherton resident's service to $45.15 for use of a 32-gallon can. The cost for that service is now $27.69; the proposed charge is an increase of 63 percent. The highest increase — 98 percent — would be for use of a 96-gallon can, which would be boosted to $162.53 from the current $82.18.

With council members Bill Widmer and Jerry Carlson opposed, the council on Dec. 15 gave preliminary approval to the rate hike. New rates are set to go into effect on March 1.

The proposed rate schedule is "far from settled," Mayor Dobbie told The Almanac. Interim City Manager John Danielson is expected to present a report addressing the concerns expressed by residents and council members, and the council will take action on the proposed rates after hearing from the public.

"A lot of people are very unhappy with Recology," Mr. Dobbie said. When Recology bid for the contract, the company "made certain commitments, and there are people in town who feel they are not adhering to (the) commitments," he said, adding that he hasn't yet determined whether that complaint is justified.

During its December meeting, the council expressed concern not only about the steep proposed rate increase, but also over the difficulty frail and elderly residents may face in arranging to have their cans picked up in their backyards under the proposed agreement.

Recology took over waste collection service from Allied Waste in January. Many residents reported a rocky beginning to the service, with trucks missing service areas and trash cans remaining on the curb for days.

The proposed rate hike also includes money that will go toward payment of the town's $334,000 outstanding debt to Allied Waste — the result of past rates not covering all of Allied Waste's costs plus its guaranteed margin of profit.

Holbrook-Palmer Park is at 150 Watkins Ave.

Visit tinyurl.com/4tjp2x9 and search for Item 20 for the staff report on the proposed rate change.

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