City Waste Board tables raising service rates — for now

BUCKHANNON – For the second meeting in a row, members of the City of Buckhannon Waste Collection Board have asked that an agenda item be tabled without a vote so additional research may be completed before a decision is made.

The agenda item is continued discussion and possible action in response to a West Virginia Public Service Commission General Order rate increase. The general order is 183.12 and can be viewed here at the state utility regulating agency’s website.

So, residents may be wondering if that means a rate increase for their waste collection services. The simple answer? It depends.

The order by the PSC says that “a rate increase in 2022 for any motor carrier of solid waste that elects to increase rates under W.Va. Code shall not exceed the index increase of 5.62 percent or an inflation factor of 1.0562 over current rates and further states that if rates will be increased to take effect on or after Jan. 1, 2022 that customers need to receive a copy of a form by mail and the rate increase shall take effect 30 days following the notice.”

During the February meeting of the City of Buckhannon Waste Collection Board, Amberle Jenkins, director finance and administration for the City of Buckhannon, said she would like the board to table the item regarding a possible rate increase.

“I would prefer if we would table that one more month because I am trying to do some analysis on it,” Jenkins reported at the Waste Board’s Feb. 3 meeting. “What we are doing is kicking it down the road a little bit, but this is a simple way to get what we probably need for a rate increase. Jerry Arnold (City of Buckhannon Public Works Director) does not have a driver right now, so we have those expenses down. They are doing really well with the poly cart system – I have to give kudos to Holly and Brian. They are really good about trying to stop the service and pay the service.”

Jenkins told members she has noticed the revenues are up.

Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner said he believed that was the thought process when the board first tabled the rate increase in January 2022.  

“We thought we should drill down a little deeper and see [if a rate increase was needed],” Skinner said.

“We do not have the truck payment right now,” Jenkins said. “I know on our draft budget we have for next year (fiscal year 2022-2023) we have more expenses than revenues.”

Arnold reminded board members the department cannot get behind on equipment purchases.

“If we get behind on equipment purchases, our maintenance lines go up and it makes it even more difficult to operate,” Arnold said. “But, as Amberle was saying right now, essentially, you cannot get equipment or people so we are going to save some money because you cannot get anything to spend it on.”

“When I get done with our strategic plan, hopefully over the next five years, we have looked at reducing staff but there is going to be some pretty hefty expenditures on capital for equipment, but that equipment will pay dividends and it is geared towards what the city is going to become,” Arnold added. “The city is becoming bigger whether we like it or not. We are picking up additional commercial customers, and we need to gear toward that commercial route.”

Arnold said at this time, he would not be comfortable going into a “full-blown” tariff/rate increase until all of the numbers are in front of him.

Jenkins said that a rate increase in the future is inevitable.

“But I would like to do a little more analysis,” Jenkins said. “Between Covid and people being off, we need to check the numbers.”

“We do not know what the economy is going to do, but I do not see an upturn in the economy in the near future,” Arnold replied. “With the strategic planning, we may be able to bring the curve back down to flatten it out a little bit – we do not want to put in for a rate increase that is way above what we will need, but we do not want to go under.”

Skinner said for now, the item would be tabled, and there was no motion needed by the board to table the item again.

The City of Buckhannon Waste Collection Board meets on the first Thursday of each month at City Hall in Council Chambers beginning at 7:30 a.m.

News Feed

Subscribe to remove popups, or just enjoy this free story and support our local businesses!