Atherton says no to garbage rate hike — for now | February 23, 2011 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - February 23, 2011

Atherton says no to garbage rate hike — for now

by Renee Batti

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 on 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.

The Feb. 16 public hearing on the proposed rate schedule was held in a hall in the town's park to accommodate the anticipated crowd of residents unhappy with the proposal. They showed up, although the number of them who spoke was likely diminished by the council's indication early on that it was unwilling to go forward with the increases until its questions were addressed.

Residents who did speak not only blasted the proposed rate hike but also complained about poor service, rude employees, details of the garbage and recycling collection program, and Recology's overall business plan.

A number of them complained about the change in the pickup schedule for recyclables from every other week to weekly, saying it is unnecessary, and leads to additional truck traffic and blight on their streets.

"We look like a slum," complained resident Helen Harmon, who noted that because Atherton wasn't built with alleys, the garbage cans and other receptacles must be hauled out to the street, where some of them sit for days. "It's very upsetting to see the garbage cans out on the streets — it looks like a garbage dump day after day."

Mr. Danielson told the Almanac after the meeting that he is putting together the so-called action 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 the 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 its former waste collection service, Allied Waste. Mr. Danielson and others at the 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 cover its costs and 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 is likely to hold a special meeting before its regular March meeting.


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Posted by The Special People
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 23, 2011 at 10:25 am

So it is okay for every other town on the peninsula to have their garbage cans on the street with the exception of the oh so special residents of Atherton? Listen to what you are saying. You sound like spoiled brats. Sadly this is I am sure how you live your lives. Entitled to what other are not. Get over it. Although I do feel the rate hike is excessive.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 23, 2011 at 10:49 am

Everyone needs to understand that even the proposed rates will NOT cover the Town's obligation to pay Recology its actual costs plus a profit. We can kick the (garbage) can down the road but eventually these costs will have to be paid.

The Town has a non-revocable 10 year contract which guarantees Recoloy its costs plus a profit. If Recology receive less revenues from fees than the amount due then the Town must make up the difference - this is called 'topping up'. In the past the Town has increased future fees to pay any 'topping up' charges so either we pay now or we pay later.

The current fees drastically underprice the cost of compost and recycling and give us all the option of actually lowering our bills by going to a much smaller garbage can - I have gone from a 96 gallon can to 32 gallons and will probably go down to 20. There is NO way that my $29 monthly fee for 1 small garbage, two 64 gallon recycling and three 96 gallon compost containers covers the cost of servicing those containers.

We have both a horrible contract (which cannot be changed) and a deceptively low rate schedule (which will, sooner or later, need to be changed).

Just as there is no free lunch there is no free garbage collection.

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Posted by Shame on them
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 26, 2011 at 12:11 pm

How did people like Jerry Carlson and Jim Dobbie run for reelection after they mismanaged the town so badly, including hiring a terrible city manager like Jerry Gruber who signed this travesty of a contract. They should both step down in disgrace. We need some younger more assertive people who can drive hard bargains for the taxpayers of this town. How can they fix this when they got us into it? And when John Johns had a $500,000 surplus with Allied Waste these two clowns let Allied bonus themselves out that money and turn it into a deficit? You've got to be kidding me!