With the ink barely dry on the Spokane County solid waste management agreement, Waste Management notified the city of Millwood of a potential rate increase.
The city first received notice of Waste Management’s November filing to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for the proposed 10.6 percent increase earlier this month.
If approved, customers would see monthly charges for a 35-gallon can increase from $3.68 per pickup to $3.92; this means $18.09 a month on customers’ bills beginning as early as Jan. 1.
The council deliberated for eight months before deciding to sign an agreement in October with Spokane County to manage the city’s solid waste. By signing with the county, the city chose not to sign a private option proposed by Sunshine Disposal and Waste Management. Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake chose the private option.
City Attorney Brian Werst said Waste Management explained that it needs to raise rates because of increased cost of services due to the reduction of both Spokane Valley’s and Liberty Lake’s customer base. The filing states that those two jurisdictions represent about 57 percent of the company’s regulated revenues.
“It’s a disingenuous argument to say that cost of services have gone up because of the reduction of Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake who are receiving services through a contracted agreement,” Werst said. “There has been no reduction in their customer base. The customer base is the same.”
Spokane County and Millwood are the two jurisdictions affected by the increase as both are regulated by the WUTC. All other municipalities have a negotiated contractual arrangement with Waste Management.
“They contract a lower rate and we get the penalty for it,” Councilman Richard Shoen said about Spokane Valley’s and Liberty Lake’s agreements with Waste Management.
In a letter sent to residential and commercial customers, Waste Management blames the proposed increase on “rising costs for disposal, labor, fuel, maintenance and other expenses.” The letter did not mention Spokane Valley or Liberty Lake.
Mayor Kevin Freeman asked the council to oppose the increase, citing several reasons such as Waste Management receiving compensation for dumping waste at the company’s Wenatchee landfill.
“This is outright misrepresentation at face value from their letter,” Freeman said. “They have gained the revenue stream of 45,000 tons of waste per year at Wenatchee landfill that was previously taken to the incinerator.”
The council agreed, and voted unanimously to grant the mayor and staff authority to draft a letter of objection to the proposed rate increase. The city has until Dec. 30 to submit comment prior to WUTC’s hearing in Olympia.
The council also approved decreasing the city’s sewer rates to $31.58 as well as reducing the excess usage charge from the original proposed volume charge of $2.14 for every 100 cubic feet over 800 cubic feet of water to $1.80.
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