Hillsboro planning to raise recycling and trash rates to offset costs

Inflation costs were a main topic of discussion at the Hillsboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 26.

“As we have discussed through the budget process, costs have continued to escalate, especially the cost of fuel. The primary costs for the sanitation budget are personnel, diesel fuel and

equipment maintenance, the latter two have been exceptionally high in 2022 and are projected to

continue. Escalating costs create a need to consider raising rates for both trash and recycling,” said Hillsboro City Administrator Matt Stiles.

The current trash rate is $12.75 for residential customers and commercial customers with a 95-gallon

polycart or smaller, getting picked up once per week. To cover the accelerating costs and provide for

needed equipment, Stiles and his staff proposed increasing the rate to $14.66.

“That would apply to residential and commercial customers with polycarts and a single weekly pickup. Commercial rates are based on that base fee and increase based on size of the dumpster and number of times it is dumped per month,” said Stiles. “Recycling is applied as a surcharge. It cannot be opted out of and is applied to each customer. The current rate is $2.53 per customer regardless of size and dumps. We would propose increasing that fee for residential customers to $3.53. Commercial customers would see an increase to $4.53 as the base charge.”

They proposed changing the commercial recycling dumpster rates based on size. Commercial customers with recycling dumpsters are picked up weekly as opposed to bi-weekly with polycart customers.

Stiles explained that the recycling surcharge has not kept pace because it is fixed at $2.53 for all customers, residential and commercial, regardless of the volume and number of dumps. There are approximately 100 commercial recycling customers. Residential and commercial customers that have the standard 95-gallon poly cart have recycling picked up every other week. There are 22 larger recycling dumpsters in service ranging from 2-yards to 8-yards which are picked up weekly. An 8-yard recycling dumpster is charged the same $2.53 per customer despite having 17x more volume and being picked up twice as often.

“Tiering the rates based on size helps to correct the inequity in the system,” said Stiles.

The proposed change to commercial recycling rates would be approximately 40 percent less than the trash rates. The rate difference should continue to incentivize commercial customers to recycle. The flat rate surcharge is unfair to residential and small commercial customers and not adequate to compensate the utility for the manpower, fuel and equipment time needed to handle the large commercial recycling.

There have been some changes to how recycling is handled in Marion County.

Stiles said, “In 2020, Fort Riley stopped accepting recycling from Marion County. In response, the county began sending recycling to the Waste Connection facility in South Hutchinson. The county charges the city the difference between the cost to dispose of the recycling and the cost of hauling regular trash. In 2021, the recycling fees were $20,945. If the county were to reduce that fee by returning to Fort Riley, it would certainly help the utility; however, we would still need to consider increasing the fee due to increased costs over the last 8 years.”

Stiles explained that in addition to the increased costs of operations, the utility needs to invest in a backup residential side load truck. The city purchased a new trash truck in 2019, it is the only unit that is capable of collecting residential trash and recycling efficiently with one operator. That truck is continuously in operation, creating a lot of wear and tear. The truck is still under warranty however the licensed repair facilities are in Salina, Wichita or Great Bend.

“We have waited up to two weeks for a repair to be diagnosed and made under warranty. A lot of items have not been covered by warranty and having the truck out of service for multiple days or weeks consumes more manpower and time to complete regular routes. Having a reliable second unit would lessen the wear and tear on the primary unit,” said Stiles.

Stiles said that if the council chose to change the rates, the city staff would suggest changes to the dumpster rental policy as well.

“Dumpster rental rates mirror the commercial rates for the size of the dumpster. Rental customers pay by the dump. We have had some rental customers that hold onto dumpsters for multiple weeks, sometimes months. Staff would like to include language limiting dumpster rentals to two-week intervals, unless authorized by staff in advance. We would suggest putting some language in the ordinance providing for a penalty for disposing of non-recyclable or hazardous materials in recycling carts. Currently our options are limited for enforcing excessive violations of improperly using recycling carts,” said Stiles.

The estimated impact of the rates would be approximately $53,300 total annually with $23,765.04 from recycling and $29,592.60 from trash. Slightly less than half of the increase in recycling costs is addressing the dumpster customers paying based on size of dumpster and frequency. The additional revenue would be enough to cover the increased costs of providing trash service and allow more funds to be devoted to purchasing a second side load unit.

An ordinance will be drawn up and voted on in the next staff meeting on Tuesday, Aug 2. In order to give customers time to be notified about rate changes, the effective date of any change taking place on the service bill will be sent in November for services provided in mid-September to mid-October.

In other business, the council:

n learned that there was an unusual issue with the battery back-up failure that caused a failure on the server when the generator exercised which caused the server to be down from 2 p.m on Wednesday, July to 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, July 21. Stiles said that they have been planning to switch to Microsoft 365 rather than hosting their own email server for safety reasons.

“If that switch had been complete before the server issue we would have had functional email,” said Stiles.

n heard that the Hillsboro Fire Department (HFD) received a 50/50 matching grant for $4,769.73 from the Forest Service for fighting wildland fires. The fund will be used to replace 9 sets of wildland gear,

outfitting most of the department needing that type of gear. An additional grant is being applied for

through Kansas Emergency Management for additional boots, helmets and gear.

n learned that The HFD received $123,720.95 in 2020 for the purchase of new structural firefighter coats, boots, helmets and gloves for the department. FEMA randomly selects recipients to go through a financial monitoring review to ensure that funds have been spent appropriately and all documents are in place. The department had no issues in their record keeping which is a great achievement.

n heard about the first plan year for the Freedom Claim Management health insurance model concluded in June 2022. The plan resulted in a net savings of $56,532.22 in its first year, money that has been retained by the city to pay health insurance claims. The new plan year started on July 1. With the changes Council approved, the city should see some additional savings in the 2022-23 plan year.

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