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Sunnyside City Council holds garbage rate hike at 21 percent

During a special meeting last night, Tuesday, the Sunnyside City Council reduced a proposed 25 percent garbage rate hike to 21 percent to meet the hike sought by Yakima Waste Systems to meet its increased costs of operations.

Sunnyside city staff originally sought a 25 percent increase, a hike of about $2 a month for a household using three garbage cans, as a way to boost garbage fund reserves, which have been going down each year. In 2008, for example, the city is expected to lose over $7,000 in its garbage operations.

Councilwoman Theresa Hancock made the motion to approve the lesser 21 percent rate increase, noting the city's garbage reserves will accrue more than $40,000 each year, to the point that the city could be looking at $200,000 in garbage reserves within five years.

Mindful of raises in other utilities and not wanting to build such a large reserve, three other council members, Carol Stone, mayor pro tem Bruce Epps and Tom Gehlen, voted with Hancock in approving the reduced measure.

Councilman Bill Gant voted no on the proposed reduction, calling for his colleagues to trust the employees they had hired in setting the garbage rates. Mayor Paul Garcia also cast a no vote, reminding council members they could always reduce the rate later after a sufficient reserve is established.

In related action last night, council also approved amendments to the contract with Yakima Waste that ends in 2009 and the next contract that ends in 2014. The amendments are needed to adjust the amount of money from the garbage rates that will go to the city. Under the proposed 25 percent rate increase, for example, the city's share of income from the garbage rates would have been 15 percent.

Also, the amendment for the contract ending in 2014 calls for the city to put the garbage contract out for bid to see if there is a less expensive contract than Yakima Waste's.

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