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Panhandle trash rates likely to go up

February 11, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Many Eastern Panhandle residents are expected to be charged more for garbage collection by this summer, but the amount of the increase appears to have been somewhat tempered by the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

Garbage haulers who dispose of trash at the North Mountain landfill near Hedgesville, W.Va., are expected to pass a pending rate increase wanted by dump site operator LCS Services Inc., onto their customers, officials said Tuesday.

Exactly how much of an increase residents ultimately will be charged could vary between haulers, but officials have estimated a 20 percent hike is possible.

Apple Valley Waste hauls garbage for in Jefferson and Berkeley counties, but the cities of Martinsburg and Ranson operate their own garbage pickup/hauling services.

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LCS Services asked the PSC in October 2008 to be allowed to increase the amount it charged for disposal of both solid waste and sludge at the landfill by about $14 per ton, according to the state agency's case information system.

PSC staff, however, have since recommended a $7.90 per ton or 23.98 percent increase for solid waste disposal and a $15.60 or 61.75 percent per ton increase for sludge disposed at the landfill off Allensville Road.

If given final approval, LCS would be allowed to charge $49.60 per ton for both sludge and solid waste disposal, which the PSC staff said it "unified" because no difference in cost existed for disposing of the two waste streams, according to the PSC's findings.

The agency's staff also recommended that LCS Services only be allowed to charge $2.50 per tire disposed, rather than the $5 charge the company requested.

The increases proposed are now proposed to go into effect in May, but City attorney Floyd M. Sayre III said Tuesday that the city is working with LCS Services to delay any increase from taking effect until the beginning of the 2009-10 fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

That would allow the city to factor the additional cost into a budget that state law requires be kept separate from other city accounts.

Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin said Tuesday that depending on overall budget needs, the rate increase proposed for city residents could be higher than the additional charges wanted by LCS Services.

PSC utilities analyst Michael E. Dailey concluded in his findings that the recommendations by the agency's staff would provide LCS Services with a net income of $1.4 million, cash flow surplus of $2.5 million and a rate of return on investment of 7 percent.

The staff recommendations still require final approval by the PSC's three appointed commissioners.

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