of imposing solid waste fees for 2015-2016 as was set forth in Resolution 2015-061 and adoption of resolution certifying the results of the Proposition 218 protest proceedings regarding solid waste fees was debated at the Sierra County Board of Supervisor’s meeting held in Loyalton on Tuesday, August 18th. During public comment Steve Schaffer, a property owner at Jackson Meadows asked if they pay regardless of whether they use the service or not. County Counsel Jim Curtis stated the fee was for the operation of the landfill and transfer stations. Schaffer stated it seemed like this was taxation without representation, adding it was a huge amount of money for a service he doesn’t use. Supervisor Lee Adams asked Schaffer what his property was worth without the service, adding it would be worth nothing. Adams said he knew his pain, as he was paying for a phone in Inyo County that he hadn’t picked up once.
Dan Mitchell stated he was representing two property owners in Calpine and felt he was under-represented for part-time residents. Mitchell felt it was an exorbitant amount of money for part-time use and wanted the Board to consider a fee by use. He stated assessing a general fee for every property was unfair. Adams stated he understood and explained what they face today with the solid waste system was what their predecessors decided when they opened a landfill in the 1960’s. He said the footprint at the landfill had shrunk and the State was now requiring $400,000 worth of vapor extraction. Adams said they based the costs on availability, adding he pays school taxes without having kids. He said the Board shares their concern, and the hours at the dump aren’t always convenient for everyone. Adams continued by stating the problem was it was really hard to create a system that was fair for everyone, adding this was the best system to make it as fair as possible. Supervisor Peter Heubner said they had gate fees before but it didn’t work so this was the way it was now. Adams added property would be worthless without a garbage disposal. Supervisor Scott Schlefstein stated the Water Control Board was a State agency and they would come down on them to find the money to pay for requirements or the fines would destroy Sierra County. He stressed the need to keep the service open and available for residents. Chairman Jim Beard said that was why the State of Jefferson was so important, adding it was not a unanimous decision on these rate increases. Adams said they have to monitor the landfill for 20 years after it closes and still have to pay the costs. He added Sierra County was not the first county to deal with this.
From the audience, Joe Arata stated it seemed like they were getting increases more regularly, with no accounting on where the money was going. He said the County was forcing him to pay over $600 a year for a 60-day visit to Sierra County, and felt it was inheritantly unfair. He stated the people creating the most waste should pay the most fees, and thought gate fees would be more fair and proportional. He stressed that part-time residents should not have to pay as much as full time residents, adding solid waste increases are only a Band-Aid and not a solution. He asked the Board what Sierra County’s values were when a widowed man would have to pay as much as a five person family, stating he has always been willing to pay his fair share. Adams said if they don’t like today’s Sierra County solid waste system they’ll probably like tomorrow’s even less. He stated they could no longer afford to do it on their own, adding it was tough for a County with 3,000 people in it. He said they don’t pay the cops for coming to their door, stating they prepay for that. Arata said he would like to see Sierra County go towards composting and recycling.
Schlefstein said the Budget was available to anyone anytime and Sierra County Auditor Van Maddox told Arata the Budget was on County website and would show him where the money was going. He said he started working in government in 1986 adding there was no place he had been where you get as detailed answers as in Sierra County. He said they try to put as much on the web as possible, adding nothing was hidden. Schaffer said he was frustrated and would like the Board to come up with better ways to assess the fees, and asked if they could raise fees at the campgrounds to make it more equitable.
County Clerk Heather Foster read the results from the protest votes, where she said of the 2,225 properties assessed, they received 22 non-residential and 221 residential for a total of 243 written protests which represented 11%. The Resolution was adopted unanimously. Curtis stated the imposition of the solid waste fees that were set forth in the Resolution were adopted, adding the protests were not sufficient to override it.