In December of last year, Nye County commissioners approved a rate increase request from Pahrump Valley Disposal and the cost of garbage collection in the Pahrump Valley was set to rise but just three weeks later, the board was forced to rescind that action due to a procedural error. Now, with proper procedure having been followed, the commission has re-approved that rate increase request and residents will see a 19.19% rise in their trash bill.
Following the announcement of the intended rate increase earlier this year, there was some grumbling among community members and John Shea, president of C&S Waste Solutions, which operates Pahrump Valley Disposal, took the time to address the concerns that had been expressed.
“We understand that we are all living through pretty difficult and uncertain times right now, and we are mindful of that and cognizant of the impact that our request today has, as well as the timing,” Shea stated during the commission’s Feb. 17 meeting. “However, this has been something that we have been working on for some time and I think it’s important to know that we intended to introduce this over a year ago.”
Shea said that plan had changed when the pandemic hit the state, with the company striving to hold off in light of the complete upending of the economy and life as it once was but its own financial strain has become such that the rate increase request could not be put off any longer.
“Like many businesses, we are dealing with several unforeseen economic circumstances that are impacting our business and they need to be addressed. There are things that we have absorbed over time, and over the last year, and combined, those are having an impact that we need to present to you so we can work to have these items and these issues addressed. We’d prefer not to be here today. Just know that we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t necessary,” Shea explained, adding that the company has not made a rate adjustment request since 2000.
Shea came with a formal presentation that provided a synopsis of the challenges that Pahrump Valley Disposal has been grappling with, which include unfunded mandates from the state, changes in the recycling industry and market and rising equipment and labor costs.
Beginning in January 2020, a new Nevada law went into effect, requiring employers provide paid time off and on top of this, the modified business tax that was supposed to sunset has been continued by the Legislature, both of which have financially impacted the business.
As to the recycling aspect of its business, Shea explained that Pahrump Valley Disposal had established a recycling program in 2004 and in the intervening years, that program has continued to grow to meet demand.
“We started with one employee, and we had one container at Walmart that was serviced on a weekly basis. We currently have three containers that are serviced seven days per week and sometimes more than once per day. So the demand is there, people are using it,” Shea said. “Because of the growth in the volume, we’ve also added a building, a multi-station sort line, we’ve added a larger baler and now, we’re actually looking at implementing another one, a stage up, with more capacity and capability. So we have invested heavily in the program and we’ve expanded it to Beatty and Amargosa.”
In addition to attempting to operate the recycling program with the same funding that was available in 2004, Pahrump Valley Disposal is having to deal with China’s “National Sword” policy, which implemented stringent restrictions on contamination rates for recycled materials purchased by the country. This in turn has forced Pahrump Valley Disposal to begin sorting said materials more thoroughly, which of course results in higher labor costs. At the same time, the value of recyclable materials has fallen. “So we are working twice as hard for less money,” Shea said.
On the subject of equipment costs, Shea said the company’s fleet is aging and in need of upgrades and replacement but since 2016, truck and equipment costs have risen over 50%. “For instance, a new automated side loader… is $311,000. We used to be able to buy that truck for $100,000 in the late 90s. In the mid-2000s, that truck was $150,000,” Shea said, noting that this is just one example of the kind of equipment investments the company is looking toward in order to continue providing its services adequately.
“The last thing I want to touch on is, the labor component. The labor market for us is much more competitive, it’s challenging to find good quality commercial drivers, good, talented mechanics as well as top admin personnel. These are all people that are highly sought after,” Shea continued. “We’ve worked on implementing training programs within our company but in order to recruit, train and retain these quality employees, we have to be able to compete locally with comparable entities and employers who have better wage packages, better retirement packages.”
In conclusion, Shea touched on a chart that was included in his presentation, detailing the cost comparison for other communities throughout the state. With the 19.19% increase, the average Pahrump Valley Disposal customer’s bill will go up to $17.05 per month while the statewide average rate is $19.80 per month. He also noted that Pahrump Valley Disposal offers a discount to seniors, who can receive 96-gallon cart service for just $15.05 per month under the newly approved rates.
Commissioners seemed quite understanding of Pahrump Valley Disposal’s request, and before the matter came to a vote, they took the time to note that the company is not just a local business providing a needed service. It is also a community partner that regularly contributes in a variety of ways, such as donating trash bins for town cleanup projects and participating in all kinds of local nonprofit fundraisers and efforts.
Commissioner Leo Blundo made the motion to approve the rate increase, which passed 4-0, with commissioner Bruce Jabbour absent.
To view the presentation regarding the garbage collection rate increase visit www.nyecounty.net and click on the “Meeting Center” link. The information is included with agenda item 16 on the commission’s Feb. 17 agenda.
Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at firstname.lastname@example.org