Sanitation rates draw more scrutiny

by nathan oster

The Greybull Town Council has agreed to take a closer look at its proposed increase in commercial sanitation rates after two more business owners stepped forward last week to express their concerns about the fairness of a flat monthly rate of $68.13 for all commercial customers.

The decision to try to find a middle ground between the current rate for three-times-a-week trash pick-ups of $37.50 and the proposed new rate of $68.13 was made during the second of three public hearings on the proposed utility rates on Tuesday, Oct. 27 at Town Hall.

Following on the heels of longtime CPA Bruce Bergstrom, Brett Ohman of Ohman Chiropractic and Lonnie Koch, owner of the car wash directly behind River-Rail Federal Credit Union, told the council that while they understood the reasons behind the increase, both felt that more consideration is needed.

Ohman said his business currently shares a Dumpster with residential property owners and that trash is collected once a week.

“It would be a waste to give us three-times-a-week pickup because we don’t produce that much garbage, but charging us at the same rate as those paying for three-times-a-week pickup doesn’t seem fair either,” he said.

Ohman encouraged the council to come up with a new rate for low-volume commercial users.

“We make a living off the people of Greybull and some of us the surrounding area, so for us to pay a little more I think is something we’d be willing to do,” added Ohman. “But almost doubling my rates? My garbage isn’t any more expensive than anyone else’s and I don’t produce hardly any.”

Koch said his car wash is in a similar situation, in that it doesn’t require three-times-a-week collections.

“All my expenses are going up but revenue is not,” he said. Like Ohman, Koch said he’d pay a little more, but that a nearly $31 increase is too steep.

Mayor Myles Foley told the men he understood their situations.

“We are talking about one-time-a-week commercial pickups as an option,” he said.

Koch said his car wash also produces a low volume of trash, not counting what’s left there by out-of-town people, which is impossible to regulate.

Administrator Paul Thur echoed Foley, saying the two business owners raised valid points.

“Going into this, we wanted to have a bunch of pigeonholes where everyone goes into nice, neat little boxes,” he said. While that may not prove possible, Thur said the town could look for a middle ground that would satisfy low-volume commercial users. Councilman Scott Mattis said he agreed, as well, that the proposed $68.13 sanitation rate was excessive for commercial users.

Koch questioned whether, as a business owner, he could opt out of using the town for sanitation and instead contracting with a company such as Road Runner or Keele. Bev Jacobs, the town clerk, said town ordinance prohibits it.

Another matter still to be decided is what to charge buildings that house multiple businesses. The Historic Hotel Greybull, home to not only the hotel and restaurant but also Mike’s Gun Shop, Moonstar Trading Post and H&R Block, was cited as an example. Right now the owner of that property, Myles Foley, pays the sanitation bill in full and is reimbursed by the other owners of the other businesses for their share of the bill. None of them pay as much as a standalone business, such as Ohman Chiropractic. “Why should I pay more for garbage than them?” asked Ohman.

The council agreed to continue working toward a more equitable solution on sanitation rates.

The proposed increases in water and sewer rates, meanwhile, again received no opposition.

The council is planning a third and final public hearing on the proposed rates for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 9. Thur said this week that the town council could agree at that time to implement the new water and sewer rates on or around Jan. 1, 2016 and hold off on the sanitation rates until all the questions are answered.