Carson Council Moves to Include Trash Fees on Property Tax Bills

Times Staff Writer

In a decision that may put an end to a prolonged and profuse controversy over rubbish collection, city officials have decided to place trash service fees on county property tax bills.

The new billing procedure approved Monday night by the City Council will eliminate the possibility of future trash service suspensions in Carson, where collection has been halted for nonpayment during the last six months at about 2,500 households--14% of the city's total.

The change also will be accompanied by a reduction in cost for trash pickup. Western Waste Industries, the city's trash collector, has agreed to roll back by one year each contract-provided rate increase it was allotted, saving Carson homeowners about $5 a year during the remaining four years of the company's contract.

'An End to Problems'

"I see this as an end to problems with the trash industry in the city of Carson," said Bill Goedike, vice president of corporate administration for the Carson-based waste company, which is operating under its second five-year city contract.

Said Councilman Walter J. Egan, "I think we've done a great service to the citizens of Carson. I think the settlement is fair and just. The city is not going to lose a dime, and I think you're also going to see cleaner streets and everyone paying their fair share."

Like Egan, most officials said they were pleased with the 5.5% fee reduction negotiated between the trash company and the city. Before the negotiations, however, some officials had expected a larger fee decrease by the trash company.

Estimated at 10%

Indeed, in late October, City Atty. Glenn Watson said, "It's uncertain what the reduction would be, but I'm sure it would have to be more than 10% or the council wouldn't approve it. (Western Waste) claims a 15% credit loss."

The city's action follows an overwhelming approval by Carson voters of a November advisory ballot measure that asked whether such a billing change should be made if it would result in a subsequent reduction in cost for service. About 71% of Carson voters supported the measure after a campaign in which Western Waste invested some $25,000.

The ballot measure was initiated after Western Waste complained about its large number of delinquent Carson accounts--4,200 in August--and subsequent financial losses. The company estimates that it is owed nearly $250,000 by Carson residents for the current contract. Officials say they lost $469,000 during the company's last five-year contract.

In tandem with its complaints to the city, the waste hauler began suspending service at all households where bills had gone unpaid for more than 45 days.

Although officials feared an overwhelming accumulation of rubbish at city curbs, few piles of garbage materialized. Many residents interviewed by The Times said they had not used the service in recent months or years--or, in some cases, ever.

Those 1,600 Carson residents whose service remains suspended (about 900 have resolved their delinquencies) will receive trash pickup again beginning March 1, Goedike said. If residents continue to fail to pay their bills after March, the uncollected sum will be added to property tax rolls.

Owners who do not pay their entire property tax bills could eventually lose their homes.

Carson residents currently pay $6.75 a month for their twice-weekly refuse collection. Western Waste was allowed an increase to $7.15 a month beginning Jan. 1, but waived it until a city settlement could be reached.

Residents will continue paying trash bills to the waste company until July 1. After that date, fees will be collected by the county with residents' property tax bills, which are mailed in October. The county will then pay the city, which in turn, will pay the waste company on a monthly basis.

The waste company has agreed to pay all costs associated with the billing transfer.

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