Commission rejects garbage rate hike

Published on Wed, Jul 22, 2009 by Jack Kintner

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Garbage collection rates will stay the same at least through September for Blaine and Birch Bay after the Washington State Utilities and Transportation commission (WUTC) rejected a rate increase requested earlier this month by Sanitary Service Company (SSC), the service provider for most of Blaine and Birch Bay.

According to a letter to customers from SSC president Paul Razore, rates were to have increased anywhere from five to 20 percent to bring rates into line with what SSC charges its other customers in Whatcom County, but some rates would have gone up over 50 percent were the request to have been approved as submitted.

Amanda Maxwell of the WUTC said the request was turned down because the three-member commission needs more detailed and specific information on the costs of serving former Blaine Bay Refuse customers, the former service provider.

The area includes about 3,200 residences and businesses in Blaine west of Harvey Road, Semiahmoo and parts of Birch Bay. SSC bought Blaine Bay Refuse about eight months ago. The request if approved, would have been the first general rate increase for the area in more than three years, according to Razore’s letter.

The request included raising the price of residential pickup of a full 60-gallon receptacle every week from $14.66 to $16.71 per month, and for every other week pickup from $8.53 to $10.24. Recycling rates for home owners would go from $2.85 per month to $3.99. Commercial and multifamily customers would have seen much steeper increases, with 20-yard dumpster service increasing from $96.90 to $156.90 per month.

When asked why Blaine Bay Refuse could provide the same service so much more cheaply, SSC’s chief financial officer Ed Nikula said it was because their drivers were non-union. “Our drivers are Teamsters, and have a contract that includes family health care, for example. Blaine Bay Refuse drivers had health care for the employee only. There’s other reasons, but that’s a big one.”

Nikula added that SSC had “withdrawn” the filing but intends to re-submit their application. “That will happen no earlier than next month, meaning that garbage collection rates will not change until October 1 at the earliest,” Nikula said.

Maxwell said that SSC has had requests for increased rates turned back before as being too high after the WUTC staff audited the service. “Commission staff audits company expenses when they ask for higher rates to make sure their services are fairly priced,” he said. More information is available at http://wutc.wa.gov.