The fee increases helped fuel County Councilman Jim Bradley's perception that the county acted too quickly last year in letting Salt Lake County Special Service District No. 1, formed in 1977 to collect trash in the unincorporated county, go it alone.
Driving the district's secession was a reflection that, since 1977, several cities have formed within the district's original boundaries. Being independent of the county allowed those cities Taylorsville, Herriman, Holladay, Cottonwood Heights and Murray to have more representation on the board governing district activities.
But at Tuesday's County Council meeting, Bradley noted that "it's extremely important to have oversight of the fees." He feared that if the district charges too much for its service, it could be undercut by a private collection company that might not take its refuse to the Salt Lake Valley Landfill, owned jointly by the county and Salt Lake City.
"We have to protect the financial status of our landfill … which the county and city have heavily invested in," said Bradley, a Democrat. "Being able to ensure the district continues to use our landfill is extremely important."
"I'm worried about our competitiveness, too," added Councilman Max Burdick, a Republican.
With unanimous bipartisan support, the council endorsed the proposed fee increases and asked Democratic County Mayor Ben McAdams to draft an interlocal agreement requiring the district to use the Salt Lake Valley Landfill for 50 years.
Besides the $2-a-month increase for basic service, the district is proposing to:
• Charge a $50 fee when residents request a new garbage or recycling can.
• Increase the bill for trailers with loads of 2 to 4 tons from $30 to $35.
• Start a "green-waste" collection program in which customers may subscribe for $9.50 a month.
• Charge higher penalties for late payments and customer payment errors.
Councilman Michael Jensen, a Republican, was taken aback at the district's need to raise fees so much, noting that district officials already have made it known they intend to seek another $2-a-month basic fee increase in 2015.
"How did the budget get so far out of whack?" he questioned.
District Executive Director Pam Roberts said several factors coincided to force her organization to raise fees to balance the $19 million budget proposed for 2014.
The county's decision to raise landfill disposal fees by $5 a ton added to district costs, she said, although not as much as an initially suggested boost of $8 a ton.
Success in getting customers to recycle more waste in the district's blue cans also impacted the district's books, Roberts noted. Almost 4,000 customers who had a second black garbage can turned one in, costing the district $800,000 in revenue from those more-expensive cans.
The district also incurred short-term costs switching its trucks from diesel fuel to compressed natural gas, she said, and faces higher expenses for fleet maintenance and employee compensation.
A Wasatch Front Waste & Recycling District proposal to increase collection fees by $2 a month (to $14.75) will be the subject of a public hearing Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Salt Lake County Public Works Administration Building, 604 W. 6960 South, in Midvale.
The district serves 80,000 residential and business customers in unincorporated Salt Lake County, Cottonwood Heights, Herriman, Holladay, Taylorsville and parts of Murray.