Restructure Fees for Garbage Collection - YES
There were two parts to this item: accepting a 7.85% increase in garbage collection fees proposed by our collector, Mill Valley Refuse Service (MVRS) and restructuring the way residents are charged for garbage collection.
On the first, we were essentially obligated to agree; under our contract with MVRS, the Town essentially guarantees MVRS a certain profit margin, meaning that if their bottom line takes a hit for almost any reason, we have to let them charge residents more. In this case, MVRS' claimed justification was the COVID pandemic, which they said had increased their operating costs and reduced their revenue.
On the second, our old rate structure was an outdated vestige of a time when the cost of collecting waste from the homes high in our hillside neighborhoods was significantly higher than the cost of collecting waste from homes in the flats, due to difficult access and the need for a separate fleet of smaller garbage trucks. Over the years, that discrepancy has disappeared, and it now costs MVRS essentially the same to collect from anywhere in town. Given that fact, it was no longer fair to charge hillside residents more than residents in the flats for garbage collection, and we voted to simplify the system by having one standard rate throughout town.
One thing it's important to note here: I have asked publicly whether we might get better service at a better price from a different waste hauler, and have asked our Town staff to assess our options. There's no guarantee that we'd be able to leave our 20-year contract with MVRS even if we wanted to, but I have seen a concerning trend of ever-increasing collection fees with stagnant or even slightly decreasing service levels (i.e. the switch to dual stream, which is less convenient for residents). I also see the possibility of switching haulers as a potential opportunity to further our climate goals by increasing the types of waste that are collected, diverting more waste from landfill.