Milwaukie's City Council unanimously passed a garbage rate increase this past week to cover a fee hike from Metro's regional government at the Oregon City waste transfer station.

Weekly collection of 20 gallons of garbage, the minimum size, will cost Milwaukie residents $24.55 a month, a 2.7-percent increase over last year. At the other end of range rates applying to various sizes, a 4.6-percent increase will apply to large 54-square-foot commercial trash bins for a $342.97 monthly charge.

The rate increases take effect Aug. 1, marking the sixth year in a row that Milwaukie has increased its garbage rate.

Councilor Mike Miller expressed concern that an annual increase has a disproportionate impact on people on a fixed income. But Miller ended up among the councilors who decided their hands were tied into approving the increase.

'It's frustrating that it ends up stemming from Metro and it all goes downhill,' said Mayor Jeremy Ferguson.

Also going into effect Aug. 1 is Metro's $3.68-a-ton increase in waste transfer it charges haulers. Clackamas County officials and garbage companies both estimate this fee counts for about 30 percent of hauling expenses.

Milwaukie and Happy Valley are covered by a patchwork of garbage companies, including Wichita Sanitary, Waste Management of Oregon, Oak Grove Disposal and Clackamas Garbage, each serving different designated areas.

By contrast, within the limits of Oregon City and Gladstone there's only one garbage hauling company per city. After a 4-percent across-the-board increase unanimously approved by the City Commission in December, the Oregon City Garbage Company charges $19.85 for the smallest 20-gallon household and $516.15 for a 54-square-foot commercial bin.

The city might have had to adopt a larger rate increase next year to make up for falling short of a mandated minimum rate of return for garbage companies. Municipal and county codes mandate haulers make a profit between 8 and 12 percent.

'If the increase is not approved and the haulers go forward over the next year with the existing rate system, it's expected that they will come in at the end of this year, their revenues and expenses will show a rate of return that goes below the bottom of the range of 8 percent,' said JoAnn Herrigel, the city's community services director.

Herrigel noted that city residents can opt out of garbage service and make their own trips to recycling centers and garbage dumps.

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