New front-loading truck coming later this year
WasteWise Methow, the valley’s commercial and residential garbage and recycling collector, is proposing rate increases for the first time in six years to support new equipment and to keep up with increased operating expenses.
Like other waste collectors in the state, WasteWise is regarded as a public utility and is regulated by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), which considers rate increases and has the final say in how they are approved.
Garbage and recycling
WasteWise has a couple of requests for its residential customers:
• Bag and securely tie your garbage before placing in the gray collection bin or dumpster. That will save time for the collection crew and prevent loose litter from blowing around.
• Place all your acceptable recycles loss in the collection bin — not bagged.
“These actions will minimize potential exposure to coronavirus by reducing the need for us to handle waste and recycling,” WasteWise General Manager Casey Bouchard said. He asked that customers pay particular attention to which recyclables are acceptable and “when in doubt, throw it out.”
“If it’s borderline, it’s better to waste it than contaminate a whole load,” Bouchard said.
For information, visit www.wastewisemethow.com or www.methowrecycles.org.
Some sample proposed increases for residential customers:
• 64-gallon can twice a month or 32-gallon can weekly, from $16.90 to $20.42 per month.
• 64-gallon can once a month or 32-gallon can twice a month, from $9.25 to $11.17 per month.
• 64-gallon can weekly, from $23.80 to $28.75 per month.
• 32-gallon can once a month, from $5.70 to $6.89 per month.
• 128-gallons weekly, from $37.25 to $45 per month.
The UTC will consider WasteWise’s proposed increase at a meeting on May 21. The UTC’s discussion and action will be based on a staff report analyzing WasteWise’s request. The commission can modify the proposed rates as it sees fit. If approved, the new rates will go into effect on June 1.
In a letter to commercial customers, WasteWise General Manager Casey Bouchard said that since the last rate increase in 2014 “the company has absorbed cost increases in key areas including workforce and maintenance. In addition, it is necessary at this time for the company to replace key equipment to ensure the safest, most reliable service possible.”
In a separate letter sent to residential customers, Bouchard said, “I recognize this comes at a difficult time for many, but it is a necessary step forward as we replace our equipment to ensure the safety of our crew and the reliability of service.”
Over the next 18 months, Bouchard said, WasteWise will be converting to front-load waste collection by the trucks on its routes. Some of the company’s existing waste containers will need to be retrofitted to accommodate front-loading, Bouchard said, and some replaced. The company’s first front-load truck has been ordered and is expected to arrive later this year, Bouchard said.
Long time in planning
Planning for the conversion and the proposed rate increases has been underway for about a year, Bouchard said.
The UTC staff review and recommendations are based on formulas the state has come up with to set rates around the state, Bouchard said — although the Methow Valley is something of a special case because its pick-up service is spread over such a wide area. “The idea is to make sure service is universally available in a region and everyone pays the same rate,” Bouchard said.
The rate increase request includes consideration of the cost for new equipment, Bouchard said. “We had to commit to buying it” as part of the rate increase, he said.
Eventually, WasteWise will have two front-loading trucks, Bouchard said. Most of the existing commercial garbage receptacles can be retrofitted rather than replaced, he said. The larger, 4-cubic-yard commercial containers will all be replaced, he said. Residential cans, provided free by the company, won’t change, Bouchard said.
What is now the primary garbage pickup truck will be converted for recycling pickup, Bouchard said.
WasteWise has four employees including Bouchard. The company has about 340 commercial customers and 1,500 residential customers, he said Although WasteWise, a for-profit business, works closely with nonprofit Methow Recycles to facilitate recycling in the valley, the two entities are not otherwise connected.
During the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” directives, Bouchard said, the business currently is steady with residential customers but has, not unexpectedly, dropped with commercial customers. The company’s business historically has doubled during summer months, Bouchard said, because of the influx of tourists and second homeowners.
Second homeowners are an important part of that mix, Bouchard said. “We welcome them,” he said.
Bouchard said he’s not certain what to expect this summer but believes that the valley will enjoy a surge of visitors if stay-at-home restrictions are eased. “We’re hoping for some good luck,” he said.
In 2014, the UTC actually directed WasteWise to increase the amount requested in that year’s rate change proposal. In reviewing a proposed rate increase request from Waste-
Wise, state regulators determined that because of a calculation error, the proposed rates were too low, and directed WasteWise to revise its request. “The commission … determined we weren’t asking enough,” Bouchard said at the time. “We were told to resubmit new numbers … There was a calculation error in the original rate filing because of the seasonal nature of our business.”
The May 21 UTC meeting is at 9:30 a.m. in the First Floor Hearing Room, 621 Woodland Square Loop in Lacey. Comments will be accepted, and can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.