Proposed garbage rate increases in Atherton ranging from 63 percent for using the smallest garbage cans available to 98 percent for a 96-gallon are not justifiable -- at least not with the limited information the town now has, a united City Council decided Wednesday night (Feb. 16).
Rather than approve the rate hikes, the council adopted interim City Manager John Danielson's proposed plan, which includes forming an "action team" to quickly address key questions the town and its residents have about the proposed agreement with Recology, which took over garbage collection services from Allied Waste in January.
The vote to delay the rate-hike decision was 4-0, with Kathy McKeithen absent.
Mr. Danielson told the Almanac this morning that he is working today to put together the team of professional colleagues to collect hard data on how the proposed rates were calculated and other information needed to create a fair rate schedule. He is seeking outside help for the project, he said, because of limited staff time available for such a difficult task.
"We have to get some outside help –- some real tenacious, analytical types," he said. "I can't express enough how complicated these (issues) are."
The team he assembles will look at, among other things, why the rate increases proposed for Atherton are so much higher than increases in other Peninsula towns served by Recology, and how much of residents' monthly bills are going toward paying off bonds issued for the new transfer station built to serve all jurisdictions belonging to a joint powers authority, the South Bayside Waste Management Authority, of which Atherton is a member.
Another key question pertains to the $334,000 outstanding debt the town owes to Allied Waste. Mr. Danielson and others at last night's public hearing questioned the debt in light of Allied Waste's assurances to the town in March 2010 that a 16.9 percent rate increase would be sufficient for the company to make the profit agreed to in its contract with the town.
Stressing the importance of working through the issues quickly so that new garbage collection rates can be established, Mayor Jim Dobbie said the council would hold a special meeting before its regular March meeting.