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Monday, May 20, 2024

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MUA Plans Another Hike for Huge C&D

By Rick Racela

SWAINTON – You won’t be as flush after you flush next year. The county MUA proposes to raise its 2006 wastewater rates by 3.81 percent, an increase that should bring in an addi-tional $938,000.
On the other hand, the agency plans to cut its solid waste (trash) user fees a dollar a ton, to $60, the 12th consecutive year for a reduction. A decade ago, the per-ton fee was $95. That’s a 37 percent reduction.
The wastewater increase could be apparent in the municipal water and sewer bills of MUA customers, which excludes Lower, Dennis, Upper and Woodbine. Of course the ac-tual amount will vary, based on wastewater flow figures in each town.
But the trash fee decrease goes to municipal budgets financed by tax dollars and taxpayers will never see it.
There is an exception to the solid waste fee cut: Construction and demolition (C&D) de-bris, which blew away other categories as the building boom flourished, will climb $3.50 a ton, to $64.50.
The $64.50, said a MUA summary, “is still considered competitive for this waste type within the region.”
Public hearings on both proposed budgets will be held on Dec. 7: wastewater at 4 p.m., solid waste at 6:30.
MUA commissioners were downright apologetic about the wastewater boost.
“We always thought we could stay at 2 percent (increases),” said Chairman George Betts, “but we’re not going to do it.”
“It’s been 9 percent over the last 10 years,” said Chief Engineer Charles Norkis, “or nine-tenths of a percent a year.”
The operation and maintenance portion of the wastewater operation will climb to $13.1 million from $12.3 million, according to an internal memo, an increase of 6.77 percent. The MUA cited anticipated increases in the cost of labor, fuel, utilities and petroleum prod-ucts.
The $1-per-ton reduction in the tipping fee for most categories of solid waste is made pos-sible by a number of factors. They include:
o Interest rates are up, resulting in anticipated revenue more than doubling from this year’s $335,143 to next year’s $747,776.
o Revenue from the MUA’s methane recovery program – selling landfill gas to the Wood-bine Developmental Center – should net a profit of $252,000.
o Thanks to refinancing, debt service next year will drop a whopping $1.4 million, to $2.83 million from $4.27 million.
Although the MUA has been reducing its tipping fees since 1994, it’s been increasing the fees for C&D since 2001 when it was $50 a ton. It climbed to $53 in 2002, $57 in 2003, $59 in 2004 and $61 this year.
With next year’s increase, that will be a 29-percent hike in five years.
The growth in volume of C&D, which reflects the building boom, has been startling. In 1994, it made up less than 28 percent of the total landfill tonnage of 121,811. In 2003, it was more than 51 percent and in 2004, more than 55 percent (135,462 tons of a total of 245,677). More than half the tonnage also means more than half the tipping fees.
The thought is that C&D may have peaked this year. But if one guesses at 150,000 tons of C&D next year, the $3.50 per ton increase will bring the MUA an additional half-million dollars.
The MUA points out that C&D takes up more space than municipal trash.
It leaves unspoken the fact that builders pass on the higher cost to landfill C&D to their buyers.
The proposed changes to solid waste user fees also notes the continuing problem of C&D waste including corrugated cardboard which should be recycled.
“Repeat offenders,” its user fees summary points out, have received warning notices and letters. Now, the document says, waste loads contained designated recyclables “may be sur-charged.”
The surcharge could be $200 a ton.
Contact Zelnik at Jzelnik@cmcherald.com

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