The Hermosa Beach City Council Tuesday held a public protest hearing concerning across the board rate changes for the city's new waste hauler contract with Athens Services.
The new rate structure, based on a "pay as you throw" system that was approved in July, will charge residents based on the size of their trash bins instead of the current system that charges all residents a flat fee for unlimited waste disposal.
Under the new system, the city said many customers will actually see their trash rates decrease while those throwing away the most trash could see increased rates.
In order for the city to adopt any rate increases though, the law required that it first hold a majority protest hearing in which property owners opposing the changes could lodge written protests against the fees to the city clerk.
According to Community Development Department director Ken Robertson, notices explaining the written majority protest process and the new waste rates were mailed to 7,072 Hermosa property owners at the beginning of January. However, by the end of Tuesday's public hearing, only 285 property owners had submitted formal written protests to the new rates.
Without a majority protest, the city council can now move forward with the fee structure and is expected to vote on the new contract with Athens in March.
Residents at Tuesday's meeting expressed a mix of support and disapproval for the new system.
While some argued that the pay as you throw system will encourage people to consume less and recycle more, others saw the new rate structure as overly complicated and expressed satisfaction with the current flat rate structure with Consolidated Waste Services.
"This is the perfect example of if something works, don't try fixing something that is working," resident Pete Clifton told the council. "The system is working; leave it like it is... It is an extreme fix for a problem that doesn't exist."
Hermosa Beach resident Gary Brown also had concerns about calculating how many bins he would need to pay for and what to do during times of increased trash disposal at his home.
"I recycle, I compost, so sometimes we have very little trash. Sometimes we have a lot depending on what we are doing," Brown said. "I don't want to order two containers if I am only going to need one."
Others in the audience, including environmental advocate Dency Nelson, saw the new system as a way to encourage residents to dispose of less waste and recycle more.
"It makes you think about how much trash you are generating... It is about reducing the trash that goes into landfills" Nelson said. "It works... It does change behavior and that is the goal of this thing."
Athens Services Chief Operating Officer Gary Clifford also tried to alleviate resident concerns and said that the proposed contract is quite generous.
Clifford said that the contract would allow residents to dispose of waste beyond their allocated bin space up to six times per year. In addition, Athens also allows for two bulk pickups per year for those wanting to dispose of large items such as mattresses.
"All you need to do is put it out, call us and put it out on your service day," Clifford said.
New Rate Structure
Currently, under the city's contract with Consolidated Waste Services, residential customers pay a flat rate of $11.57 per month to dispose of unlimited waste in bins provided by the property owner.
Under the new system, residents and businesses will pay based on the size of their trash carts or volume of waste disposed.
For residents choosing the 35-gallon or 65-gallon bins, their monthly trash rates will come to $6.69 and $10.69, respectively. For those residential customers choosing the largest option, the 96-gallon cart, rates will increase by $3.12 over the current $11.57 per month flat rate.
According to the city, recycling will always be free and residents can opt in to green waste pickup for an extra fee based on the size of the green waste cart.
If approved in March, the new system and rates are expected to begin on July 1 of this year.
In the mean time, the council extended its contract with Consolidated until June 30 in order to give Athens more transition time and allow the company to set up an office in Hermosa Beach.