SEBASTIAN — Blame it on inflation. The cost of trash collection in Sebastian is going up 15% on Oct. 1.
But that’s still easier on customers than 26.9% increase Waste Management asked for, citing climbing fuel and labor costs.
The monthly residential trash-collection bill jump $1.88, from $12.54 to $14.42. The City Council unanimously approved the increase Tuesday.
Under its 2013 contract with the city, Waste Management is allowed only a 3% annual increase or an increase based on the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower.
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Any increase greater than 3% requires a public hearing before the City Council. The current agreement is to expire within the next nine months.
In a letter to City Manager Paul Carlisle, Waste Management Government Affairs Manager Deborah Perez cited the adverse impacts of inflation, caused by an economy emerging from COVID-19, and labor and supply-chain constraints.
Perez pointed to “unforeseen and extraordinary market conditions,” telling Carlisle the nearly 27% increase was needed “to better keep place with Waste Management’s operating costs to provide critical services in your community.”
The 16.9% hike would have pushed the monthly bill up to $15.91, according to Perez.
Carlisle’s research, however, found Waste Management’s fuel and labor costs increased about 15% between December 2021 and June.
“The costs of labor, fuel, supplies, equipment have gone up tremendously,” said Carlisle. “Waste Management has given us a proposal to raise their rates. I reviewed it, did some research on fuel costs. They were asking council to consider a 26.9% increase based on their calculations and I did my own calculations and my recommendation to the council to consider 15%.”
Councilman Chris Nunn said while he can’t argue with the numbers, he still answers to residents, who are unhappy with Waste Management.
“They’re unhappy with the service, they’re unhappy with missed pickups, and yes, I understand there are labor shortages, I understand all the other reasons about inflation. But it’s a hard pill to swallow to sit up here and say, ‘I’m going to give you more money when people aren’t happy with the service.’”
“I do appreciate the position Waste Management is in,” said Councilman Ed Dodd. “A lot of the problems they have are caused by the fact they can’t find drivers, and their trucks are breaking down.
“People can say that’s their problem, and in some regards it is their problem,” Dodd argued, “but we talking about putting this out to bid in the next six months, so I would be in favor of the 15% rate adjustment.”