STANFORD — Residents of Stanford will pay about 25 cents more per month for trash pickup beginning in March.
Stanford City Council voted 5-1 Thursday night to approve a 2.5-percent increase in monthly rates for Republic Services, the city's contracted trash-pickup company.
City residents currently pay $9.85 monthly for trash pickup. The new 2.5-percent increase means a monthly cost of $10.10, which amounts to $3 extra per household per year.
Republic Municipal Representative Ron White initially asked council members to approve a 5-percent increase because rising costs of doing business are affecting the company's bottom line.
"We're not trying to be greedy," White said. "As you all are aware, the cost of fuel is going up, health insurance prices — there are so many things that affect us."
As evidence of the increased financial burden Republic is operating under, White said the consumer price index for transportation has risen more than 33 percent since Republic entered into the current contract.
And White pointed out that when the contract was awarded to Republic two years ago, the next-lowest bid was a full dollar more expensive per month and did not include trash carts for customers like Republic's bid did.
But White's request didn't seem to go over well with councilmen Eddie Carter and Mike Southerland, who both pointed out times are tough for everyone, not just Republic Services.
"I don't know that right now is a good time to pass that (cost) on to the citizens," Southerland said. "… If fuel was to take a radical spike and just go nuts, I wouldn't have a problem with it, because we can't starve you out. That wouldn't be fair to you guys."
Carter said there are many elderly people in Stanford living on fixed incomes who already make it by on a day-to-day basis.
"I see people every day … they can't pay their rent, they can't pay their electric bill," he said. "We're all of us at this table been blessed. We've got good incomes and we can do what we want to do. We can go to Florida, we can go anywhere. But a lot of people in this town live on (fixed incomes)."
"Can I go to Florida with you?" Southerland quipped, earning a few laughs. "I'll split the gas."
Councilman Scottie Ernst, the only council member to ultimately vote against the increase, said he opposed the move because Republic agreed to a set rate for the duration of their five-year contract when they won the bid two years ago.
"My feeling is that you won the lowest bid, you knew it was for five years, you got it for five years," Ernst told White. "When you rebid three years from now, that's when we'll hash it out."
Republic's rates are set out in its contract with Stanford, but language in the contract does allow the company to "petition the City at any time for additional rate adjustments on the basis of unusual changes in the cost of operations."
The city does not have to grant petitions for increases in rates, but White said the company does have the ability to terminate the contract.
"We have the ability to exit through a provision," he said.
Council members Tom Moser and Amy Hazlett seemed the most supportive of White's 5-percent request.
"I would rather have a 49-cent increase per month now than two years from now have $3 a month," Hazlett said.
Moser said he has to drive for his work and he's familiar with the cost of fuel eating into profits.
"I do a lot of driving and I charge people for what I do and I went up on mine because it costs me more to drive," he said.
"But you didn't have a five-year contract with the people, either," Southerland retorted.
Mayor Bill Miracle asked Moser if he'd be willing to make a motion approving the 5-percent increase, but Moser didn't take him up on the suggestion.
Eventually, Moser suggested the council approve half the requested increase and allow Republic to raise rates by 2.5 percent. Carter made a motion to approve Moser's suggestion and Moser seconded.
Ernst said his lone "no" vote had nothing to do with Republic's performance, which has been stellar.
"They've done a great job," he said. "It's small, but it's still an increase that I don't think should have been awarded, in my opinion. I'm one vote."