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Businesses protest recycling rate increase

Tahoe-Truckee Disposal charging for green waste pick-up
By: Cheri March
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Colfax business owners asked for the city’s help in handling increased cardboard recycling rates during Wednesday’s council meeting.
Since city garbage collector Tahoe-Truckee Sierra Disposal Company began charging green waste collection on a pay-as-you-throw basis last month, some businesses say they’ve gone from free cardboard pickup to shelling out $200 or more per billing cycle.
“The City of Colfax needs to take a stand for its businesses,” said Fox Barrel Cider owner Bruce Nissen. “The $200 it now costs us to recycle could be $200 we could use to employ a person or make ourselves more efficient.”
Nissen said businesses like Sierra Market, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and printing company GKM Corporation would also be affected.
But in a presentation to the council, Tahoe-Truckee said it’s struggling just to break even as the result of prolonged contract negotiations with the city as well as a drastic drop in cardboard value. The company’s most recent contract expired in September 2005.
Tahoe-Truckee thought it had a deal until Interim Manager Bruce Kranz’s arrival this summer, when council members began to explore going out to bid, said Tahoe-Truckee representative Ray Labadie.
Council members said they rejected the contract because proposed rate changes weren’t transparent enough.
Labadie said Tahoe Truckee is asking for a new contract to help cover its costs while waiting for a contract, including legal fees, a decade of deferred rate adjustments and the $16,000 necessary to modify the Colfax fleet to meet clean air requirements, he added.
At the same time, the value of cardboard plummeted from $240 a ton to zero. Cardboard disposal now costs the company, he said.
“When you’re bleeding and losing money, the first thing you’re going to do is plug the holes,” Labadie said. “That’s what we did on July 1, 2008 (when we started raising garbage rates) in Colfax and that’s what we did with the cardboard.”
Nissen, owner of Fox Barrel Cider, said he could sympathize.
“I understand their position – that they’re bleeding – and I’m touched by that because I own a business in Colfax and we’re not exactly printing money, either,” he told the council.
Currently, the city of Colfax bills residents $16.41 a month for a single 32-gallon garbage can. Tahoe Truckee charges the city a portion of that rate for its garbage collection services, according to Labadie.
Tahoe-Truckee is suggesting a new fee structure – for instance, $17.83 for one-can customers, with an additional charge of $3.85 for each extra can per week. Green waste would have a similar fee structure, he said.
Council members said they would appoint an ad hoc committee and place the rate increases on a future agenda.
“We’re very cognizant of businesses like yourself and we’re also cognizant of individuals at home,” Council member Josh Alpine told Nissen and another concerned business owner, Elan Vitkoff.

Medical marijuana ban
Council members considered an ordinance that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within the city. Colfax’s existing dispensary would be allowed to continue operating as a non-conforming use.
However, the city would reserve the right to shut down the business under certain circumstances, such as a prosecuted crime relating to its activity.
Council could take action on the ordinance Oct. 28.

Animal control contract
The Council authorized staff to sign a contract with Placer County Animal Services for $22,500 – more than $19,000 of which was billed after the county made adjustments to a four-year contract that expired in June.
Viewing the adjustments as exorbitant, the city researched handling animal services privately, but determined it to be too costly for the moment, Kranz said.