Taking out the trash may get a little more expensive in Lawrence.
City Hall leaders have confirmed that operators with the Jefferson County-based Hamm Inc. landfill are seeking a nearly 30 percent increase in the fees they charge to accept Lawrence trash.
The fact that the company — which last year was purchased by an investment group — is seeking an increase was not a surprise. But the amount did come in above city expectations.
“We had assumed about a 10 percent increase,” City Manager David Corliss said. “We’ve expected landfill issues to become a big issue in the future, and now it looks like it is going to be a big issue in the coming weeks.”
Corliss is now estimating that Lawrence trash rates in 2011 would need to increase by 7.5 percent to cover the higher tipping fees and other operational expenses. A 7.5 percent increase would amount to an extra $1.04 per month for standard residential customers.
A bigger concern may be whether this is the first of many increases to come.
“I would say that if trends that are occurring across the country hold true here, it is likely that our landfill costs will continue to go up,” said City Commissioner Mike Dever.
The city is continuing to negotiate with Hamm to reduce the proposed rate increase. A Hamm official did not return phone calls for comment.
The rate increase has been a long time in the making. Corliss said the company has charged Lawrence the same rate, $19.15 per ton, since 1993.
The city always could choose to transport its trash to other landfills in the region, but Corliss said that option would come with new expenses related to driving trash to a more distant landfill.
Creating a new landfill doesn’t seem to be likely.
“Siting new landfill isn’t high on anybody’s list of fun things to do,” Dever said.
Instead, Dever said Lawrence’s best efforts to combat the higher tipping fees is to increase the community’s recycling rate.
“All this is based on volume and weight, so we can help keep our costs down by recycling more,” Dever said.
Deffenbaugh Industries, a major landfill operator in the Kansas City region, has started an aggressive curbside recycling program in Lawrence. But city officials said they haven’t yet done a statistical analysis to determine whether the new curbside service has significantly reduced the amount of trash city crews are hauling to the landfill.