By Tim Hunt
Trash board reaching for your walletUploaded: Feb 11, 2014
In case you haven't noticed, the StopWaste bureaucrats in Alameda County are working at picking your pocket again as they strive to stay in business.
The agency's simple mission is to reduce the amount of trash going into the Altamont and Vasco landfills and it has done that very well. The directors are elected officials from throughout the county. It had a steady source of revenuea per ton tipping fee that was assessed countywide plus a fee on San Francisco trash dumped at Altamont.
The challenge for the agency's bureaucrats is that it has been successful and the amount of trash going into the dumps has been reduced significantly. The San Francisco fee is expected to stop in two years and the agency has been planning how to cope with that for the past few years.
The agency runs on a $22 million budget, although the portion that directors can control is about $10.9 million. The agency actually reduced its year-over-year expenses by $513,000 in the current year.
It also established its so-called "benchmark" fee that charges all users so StopWaste employees can selectively sample business and home customers of the various garbage companies and then show how people are doing against the countywide averages. You probably received the spiffy document in your mail recentlyit was entitled "How we can add $140 million to Alameda County's economy."
That the amount of economic activity the agency officials believe will be generated from jobs if we recycle more. The cost is fairly minor-- $1.81 for a single can and $7.24 for more than one can, but the total revenue to the agency is estimated at $875,000 annually. You can opt outyou will miss the reportby going online to www.stopwaste.org.
The latest revenue raising exercise borrows a page from the East Bay Regional Park District playbook. A few years back, the district established a two-county assessment district for parks maintenance. The annual fee, again, was modest at $5.44, but that number adds up to a lot of cash over all of the properties in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
StopWaste sent letters out in January to all residential property owners informing them that the county waste authority (one of the two government bodies that comprise StopWaste) was going to institute a fee of $9.95 annually per unit for 10 years to operate its hazardous waste collection service. In its cash-flush days, the agency built its state-of-the-art collection centers such as the one in east Livermore off Vasco Road.
If you collect your unused paint, solvents, pesticides and pay attention to the calendar, it's a fairly efficient process to drop them off. The big challenge is that the center in Livermore is only open six days a month (Thursday through Saturday, twice monthly).
The authority originally planned to adopt the fee unless there were too many objections at its Feb. 26 meeting, but it now has postponed the potential adoption to March 26. Homeowners can object by filling out the form that was mailed to your home or going to the website to download a form. You will need to know your parcel number. If enough people (10 percent) object, it will be subject to a vote by the affected landownersotherwise the board can adopt the fee.
The proposed fee will raise $5 million annuallya big chunk of the overall budget. Currently the program is funded by a $2.15 per ton charge.
For most government agencies and the bureaucrats they employ striveas well as many other institutionsthe No. 1 goal is to stay in business. For StopWaste, the reduction in tonnage at the dumps is a great victory. Instead of declaring it and going home, the mission is creeps or goals are revised upward so the agency stays around.
For residents countywide, four sites are better than one, but the question the bureaucrats should be asking is whether there is a cheaper and more convenient solution. How about contracting with the transfer stationsthat operate seven days a weekto become drop-off centers. Instead of simply adding yet another fee for no improvement in service, the agency should ask the more fundamental questionhow can we serve the residents more efficiently?
The local reps are council members Jerry Pentin (Pleasanton), Don Biddle (Dublin) and Laureen Turner (Livermore).