Higher gas prices raising cost of trash disposal

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 8, 2022

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HARPER WOODS — Last summer’s severe floods caused trash disposal costs to spike as residents of the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods cleaned out basements full of damaged goods.

The Grosses Pointes-Clinton Refuse Disposal Authority — which handles garbage disposal for the five Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods — shows that the Authority expects to end the current fiscal year June 30 with a budget of nearly $1.1 million, or more than $175,000 over what was originally budgeted. But for the fiscal year 2022-23, which starts July 1, the GPCRDA is projecting a more typical budget, barring any unforeseen natural disasters over the next 12 months.

“Most of the (2021-22 budget) adjustments are related to the floods,” said CPA Lynn Gustafson, who handles the finances for the GPCRDA.

During a meeting May 10 in Harper Woods, the GPCRDA Board voted unanimously in favor of a budget of $835,300 for the coming fiscal year.

Member communities will be paying more to dispose of their waste this year. GPCRDA Board member Michael Way said the South Macomb Disposal Authority has added a fuel surcharge of $1.06 per ton of trash. Gustafson said this surcharge started April 1. The SMDA operates a transfer station in the area of 12 Mile Road and Groesbeck Highway in Roseville.

“It’s a pass-through (cost) from their hauling company,” Way said of the surcharge.

The fee is connected with recent significant rises in gas prices.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise,” GPCRDA Board member William Snyder said.

Gustafson said the GPCRDA has contracts for trash disposal with the SMDA and Waste Management, giving the communities options for where to take their refuse. Waste Management operates two facilities where the GPCRDA members can take their trash: the Pine Tree Acres landfill, located in the area of 29 Mile Road and Gratiot Avenue in northern Macomb County’s Lenox Township, and a Detroit transfer station, which is on Harper Avenue, near Hamtramck. Most of the communities take their garbage to the SMDA’s Roseville transfer station; Gustafson said by email that only Grosse Pointe City uses Pine Tree Acres, along with sometimes using the SMDA and Waste Management’s Detroit transfer station.

The current SMDA rate is $31.83 per ton of trash, plus the new $1.06 per ton fuel surcharge, while the Waste Management rates are $16.90 per ton for Pine Tree Acres and $40.12 per ton for Waste Management’s Detroit transfer station, Gustafson said. While the per-ton rate is much higher for the Roseville transfer station than the Lenox Township landfill, each community has to determine what’s more cost effective for them based on the increased use of gas and time from driving out to Lenox Township.

GPCRDA Board Chair Terry Brennan said the SMDA’s fuel surcharge “should have no impact” on the GPCRDA’s administrative fee of $3 per ton.

“That gets passed on to each community,” Brennan said of the fuel surcharge.

On July 1, 2017, a higher administrative fee — which rose from $1 per ton of trash to $3 per ton — went into effect for the member communities, because the old fee was no longer covering expenses such as insurance and contributions to the pension system. Members have been paying the $3 per ton fee ever since.

One unknown in the upcoming budget is whether or not the GPCRDA will need to make a pension contribution in the new fiscal year. Gustafson said they won’t know until July whether a pension contribution is needed.

The GPCRDA budgeted $32,830 toward a pension contribution for 2022-23. For the 2021-22 fiscal year, it set aside $32,630 for the pension but ended up not needing to make a contribution because the pension was 131% funded as of an annual actuarial valuation on Dec. 31, 2020.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to use it, but we have it if we do,” Gustafson said of the coming fiscal year’s budgeted pension contribution.