By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
The new year will be here soon, and along with other new things, 2010 will see a small increase in rates for customers at the Seward County Landfill.
County commissioners approved a proposal Monday from landfill supervisor Mike Tabor, which would be effective Jan. 1, 2010, increase rates at the facility for the first time in seven years.
“We went along for quite a number of years doing well, still making a little bit of profit, keeping things going,” he said. “With the competition issues that we’ve been dealing with, that’s another we have not changed rates to our big customers. We had a competitor trying to interfere in that area.”
Tabor said the landfill is seeing shrinking volumes, reduced revenue and increased costs, and he believes now is the time to increase rates.
“We are probably the lowest Subtitle D landfill in the state of Kansas,” he said. “Of the three landfills here in Southwest Kansas, we are $27 a ton currently. Finney County, another public owned landfill, is at $32. Waste Connection, our competitor at Garden City, is more than $40, but they have different rates for everybody in the country. You don’t know who’s paying what.”
Tabor said it is also time to generate more revenue. He said the rate change issue has had some of the landfill’s customers riding the fence about staying with the Seward County facility.
“Our lower rate has kept them with us and kept them solid, which we want to continue to do,” he said. “I’ve given this a lot of thought. I’ve kind of studied it over the past year, and what I’d like to do is go with kind of a tiered rate.”
This means higher volume customers would continue on the current rate for the time being, according to Tabor.
“That would allow us not to have any problems with losing any of our big customers,” he said. “Our base rate at the gate would change. Our minimum rate at the gate would change.”
This, Tabor said, would generate some additional revenue from smaller accounts.
“This will not affect the current cities that are hauling the larger volumes to us, which is a considerable number,” he said. “What I had proposed was increasing from $27 per ton to $30 per ton. That’s a $3 increase. After seven years, that’s really not bad at all.”
Tabor said this still leaves Seward County on the lower end of costs.
“At $27 per ton, that equals .0135 cents per pound,” he said. When you go to $30 a ton, $3 a ton may sound like a lot to some people, but that only increases it to .015 cents per pound – about a quarter of a cent per pound increase.”
Tabor sees the increase as minimal in the long run.
“We’re still way below the market as far as the rest of these,” he said.
The current rate for items such as solid waste, construction and demolition materials, metal and wood and trees is $27 a ton, and with the exception of metal, which would stay at that rate, all others will increase to $30.
“The reason for that is metals are recyclable,” Tabor said. “We’re generating money on the other end of that by bailing metal and selling it is a recycled product. We don’t see much reason to increase that.”
Tabor said the landfill would like to see as much metal coming in the door as possible.
“We do have a second revenue stream for that,” he said. “Concrete would go from $6.50 a ton to $7.50. Tires would stay the same. Our minimum load would increase from $9 per load to $11 per load.”
Revenue streams at the revenue were down 15 to 20 percent, a difference of close to $400,000, for solid waste coming through the gate of the landfill, according to Tabor, who said expenses such as equipment, personnel and fuel have gone up at least 15 percent.
“Realistically, we would’ve probably increased these rates three or four years ago had we not been fighting these competition issues,” he said. “We’ve sat on this deal and kind of let it shrink a little bit. We had some reserve money built up.”
Some of that reserve money had been spent, however, on the landfill’s waste hauling division, which Tabor said has been used to recover some of the lost revenue.
“We’ve done a pretty good job on that to try to recover some of that revenue, but the expenses to do that cost money also,” he said. “There’s definite reduction in revenue, and there’s definitely increase in expense.”
The commission voted unanimously to approve the new rates for the landfill effective Jan. 1, 2010.