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Council OK’s waste fee hike

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By Tris DeRoma

Los Alamos County Council voted six to one Tuesday to increase waste disposal and recycling fees by an average of $3.

The vote was 6-1, with Counselor James Chrobocinski voting against the increase.

For residents and businesses, the monthly $22 fee will increase to $25. Dumpster collection service will increase from $121.22 to $125.

The new fee structure was based on recommendations from Environmental Services staff and the Environmental Sustainability Board.

These fee increase will go into effect immediately.

The increase will close a projected  $300,000 deficit in the Environmental Services budget, which Environmental Services officials said is mostly due to escalating costs in disposal.

Another cause is the declining value of oil, which impact the price the county gets for its recyclables.

The fee increase will bring in $326,000 annually.

Los Alamos County Council Vice Chair Susan O’Leary approved of the increases, along with five of her colleagues.

“The fact that the Environmental Sustainability Board validated adopted and approved these rate increases is very significant to me as a counselor,” O’Leary said. “Our citizen board spent a lot of time and put not only their intelligence, their heart and their awareness as citizen representatives. That was very compelling to me.”

Chrobocinski voted against the rate increase, saying he had too many questions about how the rates were arrived at.

“..I have too many questions, and I’ve had too many people expressing these concerns,” Chrobocinski said. “It’s coming from two different points of view… ‘Is it enough? Is it not enough, or is it too much? Have we looked at other ways to avoid a rate increase. I just have too many questions to support the motion today.”

Residents that spoke about the rate increase felt the same way too.

“I’m concerned for fellow community members, those who are on fixed incomes,” James Whitehead said. “The elderly, the infirm, the disabled the retired… Three dollars doesn’t sound like much, I’m sure we have a common background, most of us are educated.  We’ve seen days where $20 is a little and days where $20 may as well be a hundred.”

One fee that has been removed is the monthly $10.12 cardboard  commercial dumpster rental.

The county has about 16 cardboard dumpsters in town, and three of them are used by the county.

The county hopes that by dropping the fee, it will encourage more businesses in town to recycle cardboard, so the county doesn’t have to pay the cost of disposing of it.