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County set to decide on new fees for processing organic waste | News

The first step in Kern’s plan to send less organic waste to local landfills will go before the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday during a pair of public hearings focusing on how to pay for expensive changes being required by state government.

If the board agrees, fees charged to residential and commercial property owners will jump substantially in July as part of an effort to process food scraps and other decomposing waste that would otherwise release the potent greenhouse gas methane.

Later, the county will mull its options for building local facilities to handle the waste. For now, the question is how to raise taxpayer money that will pay for the work.

One proposal going before the board Tuesday is a set of rate increases that would be charged to owners of residential land. County land-use fees for properties with one to four units would go up about 71 percent to $180 per year, while those with five or more units would rise by the same percentage to reach $144 annually.

Separately, the board will consider increasing the “gate fee” on commercial waste haulers by 44 percent to $65 per ton, not including a new $10 transfer station fee. The cost charged to haulers from outside the county would double to $90 per ton.

Meanwhile, as part of the same proposal, the “bin fee” charged by the county’s franchise waste haulers would also go up 44 percent, hitting $3.38 per cubic yard of bin capacity. Plus, there would be a new transfer station fee of 52 cents per cubic yard of bin capacity. For out-of-county waste bin haulers, the bin cost would double to reach $4.68 per cubic yard of bin capacity.

County staff have reported looking at measures that would keep costs down by shutting landfills and transfer stations, among other drastic moves. But the conclusion they came to was that waste haulers that contract with the county would face steep new costs, and some residents with nowhere to conveniently take their waste would end up dumping it illegally.

Later in the year, the county’s Public Works Department expects to narrow its list of options for treating organic waste. The choices will likely include a $20 million compost plant in the Shafter-Wasco area and a $30 million facility for handling food and other green waste.

Then comes the hard part, Assistant Public Works Director Lynn Brooks said Thursday: persuading people to change their disposal habits.

She said there’s going to have to be a lot of public outreach to people who have three waste bins — one for trash, one for recyclables and one for green waste.

“That’s going to be difficult for some people,” she said.

They’re going to have to learn, for example, not to put their empty pizza boxes into trash or the recycling bins. Because they’re greasy, Brooks said, pizza boxes will need to go into green-waste bins.

“We have to do a really good job,” she said. “Because people simply don’t know what they’re supposed to do.”

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