Santos says garbage rate increase and waste transfer station are unnecessary

BURLEY – Two weeks after the Burley City Council voted to impose a 46 percent increase in garbage fees on its citizens it heard from Lyle Santos, owner of Total Waste Management, the company that the City of Heyburn has contracted with to collect its garbage. Heyburn residents pay just $5.93 per month to have their trash cans emptied while the City of Burley just announced an October 1st increase in its rates to $17.35 per month.

The difference in cost to Burley residents is $137.04 per year, a cost difference the City of Burley has been unwilling to explain to its citizens, unless you take Councilman John Craner’s comment “we don’t want to lose control,” as a factual and legitimate reason. Control comes in the form of hundreds of thousands in new money the city will now use to fund whatever it wants.

 Former Mayor and current Councilman, Jon Anderson, told Santos that his information was “two weeks late.” The city held a public hearing on the rate increase on August 21, 2018 but the meeting was not promoted to Burley residents beyond a legal notice in the Twin Falls Times-News and therefore nobody attended. Still, with this new cost information and an offer from Total Waste Management to collect garbage for about half of what the city will charge with this new rate, the city could reverse its previous action with a simple vote of the council.

Santos told the Burley City Council that as a private company he pays fees and taxes that the city doesn’t have to pay. He said he makes up the difference in costs by being efficient in the way he does business.

 There are three private companies doing garbage collection in Mini-Cassia with service to Malta, Albion, Heyburn, Paul and Oakley. In the Magic Valley the cities of Jerome and Twin Falls also contract with private companies to get their garbage collected.

Santos said he has looked at the City of Burley’s sanitation budget and said it seems really high compared to what he or other independent businesses would spend. Santos challenged the city to either make it cheaper for citizens to have the city continue to pick up their garbage or explain why they are charging nearly 270 percent more than private companies are currently charging elsewhere.

The city recently moved its weed spraying budget to the sanitation department budget, instead of the street or parks departments where it would seem more appropriate, making a rate increase appear more justified.

A number of citizens were in attendance at the September 4th meeting and tried to speak about the impacts the rate increases will have on them personally, but Mayor Steve Ormand refused to allow any comments. The City of Burley is the only municipality in Mini-Cassia that does not allow ordinary citizens to comment on issues of importance unless they have been vetted in advance of the meeting. Santos said it took a number of phone calls to the city before he was allowed to be put on the agenda.

The issue of the much sought after Waste Transfer Station also came up at the meeting, with Santos saying there was no reason to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to have one built west of Burley. “I could haul the trash clear to Boise for what you are charging your residents for garbage collection,” said Santos.

The garbage fee increase to Burley residents does not include funds to build the $3.6 million waste transfer station. The cost of such a facility would be tacked on to any current rate increases for garbage collection in Burley and could even result in county residents paying higher taxes and fees.

Councilman Casey Andersen complained that county residents bring their garbage into town to throw it away in city owned dumpsters, a problem Santos said should be handled by law enforcement. Councilman John Craner stated that he wanted the city to be in the garbage collection business, suggesting that the high cost to his constituents was of no concern so long as the city has “control”.

As with any governmental action, the council could reverse its decision at any time should the pressure from the public warrant such a move.