March 07–VICTORVILLE — Tucked into a consultant-led solid waste rate study reviewed by elected officials last week was the prospect that the city raise its solid waste franchise fee from 4 to 8 percent.
The increase would not directly affect consumers, unlike accompanying proposed solid waste rate hikes detailed in a Daily Press story on Sunday, but instead be enacted on its exclusive trash- and recycling-hauler, Burrtec Waste Industries.
A franchise fee is what businesses, like Burrtec Waste Industries, pay to Victorville in exchange for the city restricting competition and providing rights to operate within the municipal jurisdiction.
Burrtec currently pays 4 percent of the total solid waste rate to provide exclusive trash and recycling services, far below neighboring municipalities whose fees range from 10 percent of the total rate (Barstow, Hesperia) to 18 percent of the collection component (Apple Valley).
City officials say the bump to 8 percent would keep the fee comparatively low, while representing a considerable boost to a source of funding meant to be used to mitigate one aftereffect of Burrtec’s heavy-loaded vehicles: local road damage.
“The largest impact per trip on local residential streets is quite frankly the trash trucks that hit those streets on a weekly basis,” George Harris II, the deputy city manager, said during a Feb. 27 workshop. “The idea here is without having any other revenue source to maintain local residential streets, there is an allocation that can be made toward” such maintenance.
Harris said the fee, stored in the general fund, is negotiable and most cities will pull from it to bankroll the impact to infrastructure as a result of delivering service.
Cities have other mechanisms to address damages on major arterial roads, he added, but “very little” for the impact on so-called neighborhood streets.
For Victorville, that impact is nearly $3.5 million annually, according to an analysis conducted by City Engineer Brian Gengler, who found that approximately 40 percent of yearly road damage in the city — costing $8.8 million in total to maintain — is associated with trash or recycling collection vehicles.
Passenger vehicles, for comparison, equate to a little less than 5 percent of damages, the study found.
Meanwhile, the city’s current franchise fee draws just roughly $531,000 per year, or about one-seventh of the total needed to adequately address the $3.5 million burden, according to consultant NBS, who authored the rate study.
Doubling the fee to 8 percent would generate another $531,000 per year, giving the city a little more than $1 million total toward fixing local roads.
“The franchise fee helps us defray costs and helps us stretch dollars from other funding sources such as Measure I and Local Transportation Fund,” city spokeswoman Sue Jones said.
A message left this week with Burrtec to gauge whether they were receptive to the city’s thinking was not immediately returned.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Cox questioned the fairness of such an increase unless it could be evenly spread across all trucking industries.
“Since the trucks are tearing up our streets, we don’t charge one without charging them all,” he said, later adding the proposal might be nothing other than “a way to raise revenue. You’ve got them under the thumb.”
But the problem, according to interim City Manager Keith Metzler, is that the city has no real means to collect from other industries except for those which pay franchise fees — a group including but not limited to Burrtec, SoCal Edison, Southwest Gas and telephone, cable and tow truck companies.
Metzler pointed to Village Drive as a prime example of a section that had incurred trash truck damage, saying that the upcoming priority stretch for rehabilitation had experienced heavy-loaded trucks straddling the edge of the pavement.
Without a curb, gutter or sidewalk, the road is unprotected and has crumbled and broken. Also, streets in low-income housing areas were often affected, he said.
Discussions on proposed solid waste rate increases, as well as sewer rate hikes, were expected to continue as early as March 20 when the Council could adopt a resolution to set a public hearing for May 15.
Shea Johnson at 760-955-5368 or SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.
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