Trash charges adjusted by Stanislaus County supervisors

Location is everything, the real estate folks like to say, and that's apparently true for garbage collection rates if you live in the unincorporated areas of Stanislaus County.

The county Board of Supervisors approved adjustments to the garbage rates Tuesday. Most residential rates went up by as much as 4.5 percent, but some went down by as much as 12.3 percent. The difference is which company picks up your garbage.

The unincorporated county is divided among four collection companies: Bertolotti Disposal, Gilton Solid Waste Management, Modesto Disposal/Waste Management Inc. and Turlock Scavenger. Each has a different fee schedule, based on an annual county analysis of its operating costs and revenues.

If you live in an area served by Gilton Solid Waste Management, you are paying the lowest residential rate in the county for one-can service, $12.05. And your rate will go down $1.48 a month with the rate adjustment, to $10.57. The changes go into effect Aug. 1.

If you are served by Turlock Scavenger, you are paying the highest rate of the four companies, $14.94, and your rate will go up 34 cents a month. Customers of the other two companies will see slight increases in rates.

Gilton also has the lowest rates for two-can service in the new fee schedule at $18.91, and for 60- or 90-gallon carts.

Why are the Gilton rates lower? Because the areas that each of the companies serve have different characteristics, said Sonya Harrigfeld, director of the county's Department of Environmental Resources.

"South Modesto or Salida, for instance, are highly urbanized. The density is significantly greater, and the cost per customer is lower," Harrigfeld said. In an area such as La Grange, however, there aren't as many customers, and the cost is greater.

The bottom line? One of the prices of living in a more rural setting is a slightly higher garbage rate.

The county looks at revenues and expenses and tries to set the rates so the companies can make a 9 percent profit if they operate efficiently, Harrigfeld said. "It's not guaranteed," she said, adding that if they don't run an efficient business, they won't make 9 percent.

In the future, instead of analyzing each company's income and costs each year, the county may be doing that once every three to five years, with an annual adjustment tied to consumer or commodity price indexes. The change would save the companies money and save county staff the time in doing the analysis each year.

Part of the residential rate is a bulky item curbside collection fee, which is applied equally to all unincorporated residents. It has been $1.50 a month, but is being reduced to 55 cents, which lops 95 cents off each garbage bill.

Commercial rates also were adjusted. Bertolotti Disposal commercial rates remained unchanged; some of Gilton's rates rose 2.41 percent while others stayed the same; all of Modesto Disposal's rates went down 5 percent; and Turlock Scavenger's rates stayed the same or dropped 3.4 percent, depending on the level of service.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at tmoran@modbee.com or 578-2349.