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Natural Perspectives: Rainbow isn't stealing our gold

March 02, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
(Courtesy Lou Murray )

Some people in town are upset because our trash collection fees may go up.

Like other homeowners, Vic and I got the notice that the city of Huntington Beach is proposing to raise the residential trash collection fees. Vic thought the proposed fee increase would make a good column topic, but I didn't give it another thought. Costs go up. It seemed reasonable to me that the fees that we pay to cover those costs should also go up. I guess I underestimated the extent to which some residents of this city will protest something as minor as an increase in fees of 64 cents a month.

To gather some background on this issue, Vic and I visited Rainbow Disposal on Nichols Street last week. We talked with Ron Shenkman, chairman of the board of directors, and Sue Gordon, vice president of environmental and public affairs. Rainbow Disposal has provided refuse collection services for Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley since the 1950s. It also serves Westminster, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Irvine.

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Rainbow is raising its fee for residential refuse collection by a mere 34 cents a month. At the same time, the city is raising its fee by 30 cents a month. This brings the total to a mere 64 cents, an increase that is long overdue.

Neither Rainbow nor the city can raise its fees arbitrarily. By law, fee increases are tied to three indices: 1) increases in the Consumer Price Index, 2) the cost that it takes to dump refuse in a landfill (called the landfill tipping fee) and 3) the trash hauler's cost of compressed natural gas, which is what those big blue trucks burn. The Air Quality Management District required the conversion from diesel to compressed natural gas as a fuel several years ago. The result is cleaner air in our neighborhoods and less noise.

As anyone who has eaten in a restaurant, bought groceries or paid for a tank of gasoline lately knows, the cost of everything is going up. In July, the tipping fee at our landfills went from $22 a ton to $29.95 a ton. Even though its costs have been rising, Rainbow hasn't asked for a fee increase since 2006. Every city in Orange County will need to raise its rates because of the increase in dumping fees.

According to the formula for fee increases that went into effect through Proposition 218 in the 1990s, Rainbow and the city would have been justified in raising their prices every year since 2006. But they have kept the rate flat for five years.

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