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Garbage collection rates rise in Pahrump

Garbage collection rates in the town of Pahrump are increasing by approximately 19%, of a rate adjustment request from Pahrump Valley Disposal following the approval by the Nye County Commission, sitting as the governing board for the town.

The rate increase request was originally part of the commission’s Dec. 15, 2020 meeting agenda but Nye County Deputy District Attorney Michelle Nelson said the item needed to be revised. Therefore, the commissioners decided to bring it back at the Dec. 30, 2020 meeting, the final of the year and the last before two new members were to join the board.

At the Dec. 30 meeting, outgoing Nye County Commission Chair John Koenig kicked off the item by handing the gavel over to vice chair Debra Strickland so that he could make the motion to approve the rate adjustment. He explained that Pahrump Town Ordinance #43 gives the town board, which the commissioners were sitting as at that time, the power to approve rate adjustments if they so choose, further noting that the last rate increase was roughly two decades ago. Based on the action taken by the town board at that time, Koenig motioned to grant the 19.19% increase.

Nelson then jumped in to state that the DA’s office had not yet finished its legal research regarding the item, as there had been a delay in getting certain documents from county staff, and she recommended that the board take no action that morning. Commissioner Donna Cox inquired how long the DA’s office would need to complete its review and Nelson said she believed the item could be ready by the second commission meeting in February.

Koenig, however, was not willing to wait and he decided to disregard Nelson’s concerns, asserting that as he read the town ordinance, it was within the commission’s authority to make the adjustment. The second from outgoing commissioner Lorinda Wichman stood and when Strickland called for the question, the motion to approve passed 4-1 with Strickland the lone voice against. Strickland said she was merely following Nelson’s recommendation and Blundo added that if there was a problem, the item could always be brought back and rectified if necessary.

There were a variety of reasons listed to support the need for the rate increase, with Pahrump Valley Disposal citing state legislative mandates, increased participation in recycling coupled with rising costs and a reduced market value, escalating equipment and labor costs and unsustainable rates under the current Consumer Price Index, or CPI.

During the Dec. 15 meeting when the rate increase had been initially broached, Blundo had asked Pahrump Valley Disposal representative Mike Smith to explain for the public one aspect of the need for the increase, which ties back to changes in China’s policies that have impacted Smith’s business. Smith said the crux of the situation is contamination rates. In the past, China would willingly purchase loads of recyclable materials that contained 20% to 30% contamination, materials that are either dirty or not recyclable. In 2017, however, China had changed its tune and started purchasing only loads in which there is 0.5% contamination or less. “With that half a percent comes more labor, material has to be cleaner,” Smith stated.

He added that commodity pricing is depressed as well, with the backup information detailing that in 2017, cardboard and newspaper were valued at $170 per ton and $75 per ton, respectively but today, the prices stand at just $60 per ton and $40 per ton. Furthermore, the county is required by Nevada Revised Statute to have a recycling program and in order to maintain that program, Pahrump Valley Disposal would need an additional $307,862 per year, as the cost of that program is $518,000 per year while revenue from it only comes to $210,138 per year.

As to the other factors driving the rate increase, the backup information detailed that effective Jan. 1, 2020, private employers in Nevada with 50 or more employees saw changes in the laws requiring paid time off, with the legislative requirements resulting in over $38,000 in increased costs to Pahrump Valley Disposal annually. In addition, the Modified Business Tax established in 2003, which was supposed to “sunset” in 2007, has been extended and continues to cost the company each year. Expenses relating to equipment, such as trucks and containers, along with labor, are all on the rise as well and the rate increase will help the company maintain a sustainable and compliant fleet.

For residential service, monthly collection from a 96-gallon cart is rising from $14.32 per month to $17.05 per month, an increase of $2.73. For three-yard container collection once per week, costs are going up from $95.28 per month to $113.56.

Pahrump Valley Disposal has an exclusive franchise agreement with the town of Pahrump for garbage collection services, with the contract for service originally signed in 1998 with a 15-year term. The contract was amended several years later to provide for a 20-year contract commencing in 2003 and continuing until 2023, according to information provided with the agenda item.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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