On March 16, the Merced County Association of Governments, MCAG, held a board meeting to discuss the plan to raise garbage rates. The meeting was recorded and posted online.

According to the MCAG publication video, The Merced County Regional Waste Authority, RWA, wants to start implementing this new plan, referred to as the Normalization Plan, over the course of 10 years.

This plan would even out citizens’ rates for taking their garbage to the landfill, meaning that over the next 10 years, garbage disposal rates will rise until everyone from different cities within the county pay the same amount, no matter how far they are from the landfill.

Previous rates depended on how far each city lived from the landfill and how much energy it took to pick up the waste.

At the beginning of the board meeting, MCAG members discussed the rates of each city and debated whether it was a good idea to move forward with the plan. They called this time the Tipping Fee Study Workshop.

Stacie Guzman, Executive Director of the MCAG stated, “we are not doing the workshop wanting to arrive at any conclusions, but the hope is time is spent having the discussion required that there would still be public comment and opportunity for discussion…but that essentially the kinks have been worked out and that the board is feeling like there is going to be some level of consensus.”

After the RWA explained how the plan would work, not much was said by MCAG members to question the logistics of how the original numbers were decided. Director Lloyd Pareira said that after doing the math himself, he was not sure where the numbers came from, as there is an extra amount thrown into the equation not known by the MCAG, and not explained by the RWA.

Pareira said, “Whoever did these back in the day didn’t just do it by distance, there was some sort of other consideration in the rates.”

Director Pareira told the other board members as an attempt to persuade them to not move forward with the plan, that although we are making the rates even, “even doesn’t make it even for the constituent.” Director Rodrigo Espinosa agreed, saying “we should stay with the status quo.”

A counter-argument to their statement was given by Director Pat Nagy, stating that “although we see the numbers rising, we don’t know how this will impact individual households, because rates are being decided by the weight of garbage at the waste site and not the distance. We won’t know this until we begin the new plan and see how numbers adjust over time. After this discussion, the tipping fee study workshop ended.”

The second part of the Board meeting was spent voting on two items, when to start raising garbage rates and if they should implement the Normalization Plan.

Starting July 1, 2024, the board voted that they would start implementing the rising rates. Director Espinoza was the only one out of 11 who did not want to start on that date.

The second vote decided if they were going to move forward with the Normalization Plan, or continue with the status quo. The Board members who voted to move forward with the new plan were Directors April Hogue, Paul Llanez, Daron McDaniel, Pat Nagy, Scott Silveira, Vice Chair Josh Pedrozo, and Chair Matt Serratto.

The votes to continue with the status quo were Rodrigo Espinosa, Mike Nelson, and Lloyd Pareira. There was one abstained vote, who was Jose Moran.

The final consensus was that the Normalization plan will begin on July 1, 2024. It is currently unclear what effect the Normalization Plan will have on the rates of each city and individual in the county.

Marc Anthony Briones