Thursday, November 11, 2010

Solid Waste Fees To Increase $20 Annually

By Rebecca Rose

County Commissioners voted to approve a $20 per year increase in residential solid waste fees during a Public Hearing on Tuesday night.  The new measure would bring the total costs for residential fees to $80 and $375 for commercial businesses.
County Manager Delilah Walsh explained that move was a response to an increase in disposal fees from the city of Socorro, which manages the dump.  According to Walsh, fees for the County have more than doubled in the past two years. Socorro County residents have not had fee increase in five years. “The fact is, the cost to run the landfill has increased,” said Walsh.  “I just want to cover the cost of the landfill.”
In her recommendation, Walsh pointed to an anticipated annual cost of $325,000 to cover landfill costs for the next fiscal year, with no residential boom predicted to cover increasing costs. “Our objective is to cover the landfill expense, not operational expenses.” she said.
Several constituents wrote letters to the Commission to voice their objections to the increase. “This increase in today’s economy is going to put a financial strain on many senior citizens who are on a fixed income,” wrote Ismail Romero and Dianne Perry in a joint letter.  “Everything is going  up in price, but our income is not going up.”
 In her letter to the Commission, Millie Sigman asked “Has the County tried other measures to reduce cost increases? Such as limiting the number of days that the waste stations are open? Increasing more stringent efforts to collect annual waste fees from property owners?”
Michael Jojola, Director of the Solid Waste Department spoke during the Commission meeting, stating that his department was also looking into ways to alleviate costs, such as exploring recycling options, and cracking down on “sticker lending”, to stop non-County residents from borrowing stickers and dumping their waste in Socorro.  He also said that using wood chippers to mulch heavy branches would not only help cut down on landfill tonnage but also provide residents with a useful by-product.
The average annual fee for solid waste disposal in surrounding counties is $130 annually. Catron County, which does not operate a dump within the county, pays $400,000 annually to transport their waste to an appropriate site.
Commissioners approved the increase, with the stipulation that residents be allowed to pay the fee in installments, if needed.  The measure will go into effect within five days, with the increase reflected on billing starting on the first of the new year.

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