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2016-03-31

Commissioners ‘talkin’ trash’ again

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

As promised months ago, Bandera County Commissioners revisited the question of garbage collection services at the solid waste disposals stations located in each precinct. During a regular meeting on Thursday, March 10, the court again took up a question of increasing collection rates to make up continued deficits.
After discussing a possible rate change at an earlier court session, commissioners decided to wait for one quarter before making a final decision, allowing current rates to remain in effect. In 2009, rates for trash disposal were increased by 40 percent, according to Auditor Christina Moreno.
At that time, Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris requested that patrons be charged a tonnage rate, which more accurately reflects the collection cost. “There’s a haul-off price and a tonnage cost which is $23 a ton extra,” he said.
Additionally, Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson said he had been hit with a $200 increase per pull in Medina due to the extra mileage driven.
After tracking garbage collection costs for the last five months, Moreno came up with a sea of red with none of the stations in the black. According to her data, the Precinct 1 Pipe Creek station, located at 170 East Pipe Creek Drive, had a deficit of $353; Precinct 2, Lakehills station, 151 Ohio Avenue, $1,114; Precinct 3, Medina station, 758 FM 337 East, $1,267; and Precinct 4, Bandera station, 3028 Highway 16 North, $224. None were financially solvent.
However, a nascent recycling program had garnered $2,000 for the county during that same five-month period, according to Moreno.
Referring to the losses for trash collection, Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson observed, “If we keep going, we’ll be broke real quick.”
“You are correct,” Moreno replied.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jordan “Jody” Rutherford asked, “Is the solution increasing the prices [for garbage drop off] or is it having all the four operations standardized?”
“Yes,” responded Evans.
Evans also noted that part of the problem was a broken baler in the Lakehills station. A second baler that has been approved by the Alamo Area Councils of Government (AACOG) might alleviate some of the fiscal problem.
After also crunching some numbers, Treasurer Billie Reeves felt that inconsistencies among the stations’ accounts receivables might be alleviated with a workshop designed for the waste station employees.
According to anecdotal reports, some operators are allowing customers to dispose of more garbage bags than others for the same fees. “We’re going to have to screw down on them,” Rutherford said.
However, he feared that increasing the fees for trash disposal would lead to trash being dumped on the side of the road.
Reeves also noted that a half-filled dumpster at closing times on a Wednesday was often full on Saturday when the collection station reopened.
“I’ve rode that horse before,” Wilkerson said. “I’ve threatened to change the locks, but was told not to do it.”
To Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes’ question about what a potential rate increase would be, Wilkerson said, “At least 30 percent.”
Cost for private trash pickup in the country is $30 per month. Grimes said it costs him just $6 a month to dispose of his household trash because he and his wife do extensive recycling.
Last year’s deficit for the four solid waste disposal stations was $23,000. “However, at this point we do not use taxpayer money for the deficit,” Moreno said.
“No, but it’s coming,” Evans noted.
“Training is going to help, but not that much in the end,” Wilkerson said.
Before scheduling a workshop for solid waste disposal station employees, commissioners decided to wait until the return to the court of Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris, who is out on medical leave.
“Our goal is to make this a user pay service,” Evans said. “We don’t intend to make the taxpayers subsidize this service.”