Belen looks at decreasing garbage rates

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A city of Belen committee is searching for ways to decrease garbage collection rates for businesses after receiving complaints about the increase in prices of six and eight yard commercial trash bins.

Possible solutions include the effect of decreasing prices on the overall solid waste department's budget and increasing awareness of Belen's recycling center.

Before utility rates increased in March, the trash bin prices "were all weird amounts," said Roseann Peralta, the city's finance clerk.

"They (rates) weren't from smallest to large," Peralta said. "Now it goes from low to high and we have large trash bins paying more, but before the smaller trash bins were paying 100 percent of the price."

City councilors unanimously approved an increase in water, sewer and garbage rates in late February to address the city's crumbling infrastructure in dire need of improvements and replacements.

Councilor Wayne Gallegos presented the issue before councilors at their late May meeting.

"The problem is that there is a problem and we have to come up with something to try and correct it," Gallegos said.

When Councilor Jerah Cordova asked how widespread this concern was, Gallegos said he received one complaint.

Marcia Amaro, the city's utility billing supervisor, said she received two and Mayor Rudy Jaramillo said he received two.

Garbage collection rates for businesses with trash bins vary depending on the size and the number of pickups per week, according to city ordinance. Businesses can have a trash bins one to nine cubic yards large and as many as five pickups in one week.

With the current rates in place, the solid waste fund is projected to have expenses of $1.15 million and revenue of $1.225 million for 2012-13, leaving the department with more than $74,000.

These funds are used for additional expenses, such as maintenance problems with the department's two trucks.

If they were taken away, the department wouldn't be able to keep up with their maintenance needs or possibly add on another employee, Amaro said.

The solid waste department has one employee who can't keep up with the demands of customers on top of operating the recycling center and the transfer station, Amaro said.

"He's overloaded, and it's only one person," she said. "He really does need someone to help him out there."

In September, Waste Management, Inc., the company providing the city with collection, transfer and disposal services, will also be increasing its rates due to the rise in fuel prices, Gallegos said.

"We have to be ready to absorb some of those costs," he said.

The city has issued a request for proposals to find another waste collections facility to bring the cost of expenses down, but the city's contract doesn't end for two more years, Amaro said.

A number of businesses can decrease the size of their trash bins by utilizing the recycling center to condense the amount of trash they throw away.

But first, citizens need to be aware of how to conserve and the cost savings it reaps, Amaro said.

"We can teach our citizens. It's just like the water," she said. "I've had lots of complaints about the water prices being high, but its about conservation and right now people aren't used to conserving their water. That's all it is — is learning to conserve.".

Funds in the solid waste department are applied towards revenue loses from the recycling center, Peralta said.

"People aren't using the recycling center and aren't educated," Peralta said. "By educating them now and trying to get them to go, we can collect more and cover our loses in the center."

Amaro said she also plans on sending businesses prices on polycarts and trash bins to see what options are available.

As the owner of Rutilio's New Mexican Foods, Jaramillo said he can sympathize with businesses, since the increase in prices have affected him as well.

"I definitely try hard to get my cardboard to the recycling center instead of dropping it into the bin, and when I do, I break down the boxes," he said.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.