By Ann McCreary

Garbage collection rates in the Methow Valley will increase this summer if a rate change requested by WasteWise Methow is granted by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

The current collection rates have been in place since 1996, said Chad Patterson, co-owner of WasteWise with Casey Bouchard. During those 18 years the cost of doing business has increased considerably, Patterson said. A gallon of diesel to run the trucks, for instance, has risen from about 96 cents per gallon to about $5 per gallon, he said.

The rate adjustment proposed by WasteWise would increase the cost of weekly collection for a single can from $13.75 to $15, before taxes, for residential and commercial customers. The cost of weekly collection for two cans would increase from $19.35 to $21.10, before taxes.

That base rate includes a state fuel surcharge that was previously listed as a separate line item on the bill. A state solid waste collection tax will continue to be listed separately on the bills, and residents of Twisp and Winthrop will continue to pay a separate utility tax.

The requested rate change would result in an overall increase of about 9 percent for residential customers and 11.5 percent for commercial customers, according to information that will be mailed Friday (May 30) by WasteWise to 1,652 residential and commercial customers.

The letter to customers lists current rates and the proposed increases for all the company’s residential and commercial categories. The letter also explains how customers can comment on the rate proposal during a public comment period.

The additional revenue generated by the higher rates would pay for increased operating costs for labor, parts and equipment, maintenance, employee benefits and fuel, according to information from WasteWise.

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Increased efficiency

Bouchard and Patterson purchased Methow Valley Sanitation Service Inc. and renamed it WasteWise Methow in January 2013. The company needed a new garbage collection truck, so the new owners invested in an automated truck and garbage cart system that makes the collection process more efficient. The company last year added a curbside recycling service for mixed materials, now used by about 90 customers, Bouchard said.

“We have worked to increase efficiency of garbage collection so we can spend more time on recycling. In order to do that we had to make investments … to take a more responsible, measured approach to managing the waste stream in the valley,” said Bouchard, who founded Recycling Roundup, a nonprofit recycling organization, when he came to the Methow Valley in 2009. Recycling Roundup and Methow Valley Sanitation joined together to form WasteWise.

The new garbage collection system initiated last year has helped the company reduce labor costs, and the truck is more fuel-efficient and produces lower exhaust emissions than the previous truck, Bouchard and Patterson said.

“It’s faster and reduces our carbon footprint,” Patterson said.

The request for a rate increase will be considered by state utilities commission on June 26, when staff will make a recommendation to commissioners at an open meeting in Olympia.

If approved, the new rates would take effect in July, and be reflected in the August bills.

People interested in the proceedings can listen on a designated phone line, or may comment on the proposal before the meeting. The letter to be sent by WasteWise to customers includes contact information for the utilities commission. 

For more information about the proposal, contact WasteWise at 997-8862 or email casey@wastewisemethow.com.