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Slight Rate Increase For Trash Pick-Up in Nome To Take Effect in March

Alaska Waste, the utility in charge of garbage disposal in Nome, is looking to raise service rates and add a charge for extra bags of trash left out on the curb. Nome residents will see some of those changes on their March bill, including an incremental increase of 7% for their trash service.

These changes are being proposed by Alaska Waste, a private waste utility in charge of garbage services in Nome— not Nome Joint Utilities System (NJUS). NJUS Manager John Handeland explained this when the City got notice of the proposal in January.

“The City ordinance requires people to subscribe to a garbage service. The only arrangement that we have with them [Alaska Waste] is a billing arrangement where we receive 12% of their revenues for billing services, so their rates go up and we benefit.”

Not everyone is happy about the proposed changes, like Sandra Medearis who told the Nome City Council as much during their regular meeting on January 13th.

“This is a brief curmudgeonly comment. I too took exception to the fact that they’re going to charge me for an extra bag of trash because I’ve been out of town a lot and so I haven’t had any garbage in that can: not even my three allotted bags! So on the weeks I’ve had nothing in my cans I want three times $3.66.”

Three dollars and sixty-six cents is the proposed fee Nomeites pay for each additional bag of garbage left beside their can starting some time in 2021. Those changes first have to be approved by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, a process that takes 450 days.

Despite the discontent of residents like Medearis, Alaska Waste’s spokesperson Laurel Andrews says charging for extra bags is a fairly common practice in other cities around the state.

“What we’re really hoping to do is encourage people to be thoughtful about their waste. If people have lots of extra bags consistently maybe what they need is a second can. We want cans to be consistently full instead of half- full with a bag on the side.”

Alaska Waste says reducing the number of bags will make garbage collection safer for their workers and even potentially reduce animal activity wihin city limits.

That’s just one aspect of the proposed tariff change; Alaska Waste proposes an overall 13% increase for service beginning in 2021. That would mean a weekly residential trash can pick-up would cost $31.72. And while those changes wait final approval, there is a scheduled interim increase of 7% which is scheduled to begin in next month’s billing cycle [MAR]– making that base rate of $27.90 go up to $29.85. Andrews explains their last increase in rates happened in 2015.

“And those costs were based on a study done in 2013 so people are paying rates at the cost of business for 2013. So seven years have passed, as all lines of business costs have increased over time.”

The City of Nome has protested the changes and wrote to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska in late January. City Manager Glenn Steckman wrote that the proposed changes are higher than the consumer price index and not reasonable for a city of Nome’s size and socio-economic status.

Laurel Andrews with Alaska Waste says that the rate filing is a gradual process. It is possible for the regulatory commission to approve an increase smaller than the 13% permanent rate proposed by Alaska Waste.

Image at top: An Alaska Waste trash can in Nome. The private utility that handles garbage disposal in town has proposed increasing their rates by 13% in 2021. Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2020).

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