Rate increase on the horizon for IMD customersDelaine Fragnoli
A year after they put a decision about a rate increase for waste services in Eastern Plumas on hold - pending a management audit of Intermountain Disposal - the supervisors purposefully ignored the very report they said they needed to make the decision.
By ignoring the audit, which gave IMD and Feather River Disposal a clean bill of health, they could move ahead with the rate increase process, seemingly motivated by compassion for the long-suffering Ricky Ross of IMD, who originally asked for the rate increase for the 2008 - 09 year.
At the time they asked for the audit, supervisors had conducted the required public hearing for raising rates in IMD's service area. They were set to have the first reading of the ordinance that would enact the rate change when they put the brakes on.
At a meeting Tuesday, Sept. 14, county counsel Craig Settlemire advised the supervisors that if they used the now completed audit report to make their decision about the rate increase, they would have to back up and start the customer notification and public hearing process all over again.
If they did not base their decision on the audit report, they could, in essence, resume where they left off, with a reading of the relevant ordinance.
Board chairwoman Sherrie Thrall said, "To say we're going to ignore the thing we said we needed to make the decision doesn't sit right with me."
But after another half-hour of discussion that's exactly what the board did.
A clearly frustrated Ross said he thought he was going to get a final decision on his request that day. "We need immediate relief now. The audit shows we're doing all we can."
Even without re-starting the process, IMD cannot implement a rate increase until December at the earliest. The reading of the stalled ordinance has to be properly noticed and scheduled. It has to be read a second time, and then it goes into effect after 30 days.
Ross said after last week's meeting that he needed the rate increase last April. Like many industries in Plumas County, trash is seasonal and the slow winter season is fast approaching. Ross loses many commercial customers, including campgrounds, during the winter, and a number of snowbirds cancel their service.
Oct. 5: First reading of the rate-increase ordinance; public will have a chance to comment; supervisors will decide amount of increase - they originally motioned for a 12 percent increase.
Oct. 12: Second reading
Mid-Nov.: Ordinance goes into effect
Down the road: Renegotiation of franchise contracts with both IMD and FRD; establishment of a "Refuse Rate Index," a consumer price index type of rating that would adjust rates automatically so, as Thrall said, "we remove some of the political decision making."
"Solid waste is an interesting animal. People take their trash to the curb - and the fairies make it go away."