By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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The proposed increases go hand in hand with potential hikes in tipping fees at the Port Angeles Regional Transfer Station, proposed to go up an average of 5.3 percent over the next five years.
The increases are needed to pay for the municipal bonds the city plans to use to fund the bulk of the multimillion-dollar effort to stabilize a failing bluff just north of the city's transfer station and prevent decades of buried garbage from falling into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The proposed increases were the subject of a public hearing at Tuesday's council meeting.
Council members held the first reading of the proposed increases and continued the public hearing to their June 3 meeting. They plan to vote on the proposal after the hearing.
Resident: Bills high
Even without an increase, resident Cindy Turney said she already struggles to pay her city utility bill.
It can be as high as $425 per month, she said.
“I am concerned because it's a real problem,” Turney said during the hearing Tuesday.
Stephanie Noblin, who lives in unincorporated Clallam County, said during the hearing that she thinks the higher garbage and transfer station rates will lead to residents dumping garbage elsewhere.
“When people can't afford this, they're going to [find] a place in the woods, and they're going to dump their stuff,” she said.
Details of rate hikes
Under the proposed increases, the monthly rate for weekly residential garbage pickup would go up 6.96 percent, from $32.17 to $34.41, from this year to next.
By 2019, the rate for weekly pickup is expected to rise to $42.38, or 31.7 percent compared with 2014.
The monthly rate for every-other-week pickup would increase by 5.4 percent, from $20.35 to $21.46, from this year to next and go up to $26.47 by 2019, a 30 percent increase from 2014.
The per-ton rate for garbage hauled by residents to the city's transfer station would go up 5.8 percent, from $170.11 to $180.05, under the proposed rates, and would eventually increase 31 percent to $222.91 by 2019.
City Utility Advisory Committee members recommended the proposed increases at their May 13 meeting, with committee member Betsy Wharton abstaining.
“[The proposed rates are] there to demonstrate full faith that the city and the council have a) the ability and b) the political will to establish the rates necessary to repay the bonds,” City Finance Director Byron Olson said at the advisory committee meeting.
Olson said the average 5.3 percent increase over five years for transfer station tipping fees is roughly a 50 percent drop from the 10.3 percent per-year increase proposed in a cost-of-service study done earlier this year.
Olson said this was accomplished by reworking the way the project is set to be funded via municipal bonds.
“We're looking at it this way, to try to achieve the maximum savings for ratepayers [and] to try to keep rates as low as possible,” Olson said.
The city is planning to sell two types of bonds — revenue bonds and limited tax general obligation bonds — to fund the project, Olson explained.
The combination allows the city to reduce the amount of bond reserve funds needed and thereby reduce the amount of money that needs to be raised through their sale, he said.
The exact interest rates on the bonds will be determined after the bonds' rating is received June 6, he added.
$16.19 million in bonds
Olson said the city plans to sell about $16.19 million worth of bonds to pay for the landfill project, which will shift about 400,000 cubic yards back from a portion of the landfill threatening to be released into the Strait.
Construction, design, project management and costs associated with administering the bonds bring the total cost of the project up to about $21.2 million, Olson said.
The city has secured $3.9 million in financial assistance from the state Department of Ecology.
Council members conducted the first reading of ordinances authorizing the sale of the bonds at their Tuesday meeting and will vote on them at their June 3 meeting.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.