Landfill policy change could mean higher rates in Merced County

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comNovember 1, 2013 

Getting rid of your trash at the county’s two landfills soon could cost more than expected.

Beginning in two weeks, landfill staff will weigh all loads of garbage, brush and other materials from customers, a change for those used to paying a flat rate of $19 to get rid of large truckloads of trash.

The $19 flat rate isn’t going away, but waste management officials said customers will now pay the difference for loads that exceed the minimum weight.

“It’s the first time that we are actually weighing all loads,” said Jennifer Halpin, public programs specialist for the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority. “Before, it was up to the scale house operator’s discretion.”

The flat rate resulted in a large revenue loss at the landfills, according to the authority’s director, Brooks Stayer. He said weighing all loads will save an estimated $100,000 per year.

The change to weighing all loads and charging accordingly is part of a plan, which included operational changes and laying off 10 employees, to close a $1.4 million deficit in the landfill’s budget.

Customers will still pay $19 for loads weighing 1,000 pounds – a half-ton – or less. Anything more will cost an additional $43.05 per ton. The policy goes into effect Nov. 18 at the Highway 59 landfill in Merced and the Billy Wright Landfill in Los Banos.

The new policy might not affect residential customers, who usually have less trash, Halpin said, but could affect businesses, which bring in larger loads.

Brian Dyck, owner of Straight Edge Roofing in Atwater, said his company will have to charge its customers more because of the increased cost of dumping trash at the landfill. Dyck said his company hauls garbage to the Highway 59 landfill at least once or twice a week.

“From now on, it’s going to be charged by the ton so it will cost us a lot more. For us, it’s just another added cost,” Dyck said. “I was expecting it because they’ve been talking about it, and everything else goes up, but now we have to charge more to the consumer.”

Dyck estimated his company’s increased costs will be $2,000 to $3,000 a year.

Other companies, such as Granite Construction, whose projects include the $55 million Atwater-Merced Expressway project, said the change might not make a big difference.

The company has been using the landfill in Crows Landing but plans to take trash to the Highway 59 landfill soon.

“I’d have to see what the new rates are, but it’s not a big concern,” said project engineer Dominic Dias. “It’s not bad because you pay for what you bring in.”

Some Merced County residents worried the policy change might result in more people dumping trash on public sidewalks and streets.

“I think with rates like that you will see more trash on the side of the road” instead of in landfills, wrote Charlene Goodman in response to a question posted on Sun-Star’s Facebook page.

Dan Arnold, Public Works operations manager for Merced, said there might be some additional dumping because of the change, but it won’t be significant.

“With any type of change, you might have one or two extra dumpings because of it,” Arnold said. “Most people in the community don’t get mad and dump garbage in the alleys. It could happen, but we are not concerned.”

Arnold said he believes weighing all loads is a fair policy because the landfill has to recoup its costs.

Halpin said landfill staff are verbally informing customers of the change, placing notices at the landfill windows and a message on receipts. The feedback from customers and employees has been positive, she said.

“What I’m happy about is that it will give us more accurate reporting for our tonnage,” Halpin said. “I just had a load yesterday where we gave them the flat rate, but they had more than a ton so we ended up losing money. Now we’re charging people for what they’re actually bringing in.”

Halpin said weighing all loads could slow down the process for customers and recommended avoiding busy times – early morning, lunch and right before closing. Franchise haulers will drive through a different lane to speed up the process.

The new rates will be posted on the county’s landfill website, at

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or

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