Livingston OKs garbage rate hike, pending final approval April 2

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comMarch 20, 2013 

— The city chose to move forward Tuesday night with utility-rate increases aimed at relieving a nearly half-million-dollar deficit in the sanitation fund.

The City Council voted unanimously to establish the increased garbage rates. A second reading of the ordinance and possible adoption are scheduled for April 2.

If the increase is approved again next month, typical bills would increase to $23.79 a month from the $18.60 charged to those with a single can or $22.04 charged to those with an extra can, according to city data. In 2014, the rates would jump to $26.49 a month.

The earliest that residents could see the increase on their bills is May 3.

City officials say the rate increases are aimed at reducing the city's $482,000 deficit in the sanitation fund, providing a three-month reserve and paying for the services.

Several residents spoke during last night's meeting, many of them expressing concerns over residents who are on fixed incomes and might not be able to afford the rate hike.

Resident Damien Ramirez said his father is one of those people. He claimed that many residents will be forced to leave town because they won't be able to pay the extra cost.

Councilman Jim Soria said he understands the financial hardship the increase poses to some residents, but said the rate increase is necessary to maintain city services.

"We do have to take care of it now before it becomes a bigger problem," he said.

New reserve officers

Before officials scrutinized the rate-hike proposal in depth during Tuesday's council meeting, they lauded the two newest members of the Livingston Police Department.

Satveer Singh, 21, and Javier Ramirez, 28, were sworn in as reserve police officers by City Clerk Tony Silva earlier during the meeting.

Police Chief Ruben Chavez said the city now has six reserve officers who supplement the rest of the force.

Reserve police officers aren't paid, he said. Rather, they work part time to gain experience and help in the community.

Singh, who was born in India, is a product of the department's Police Explorer Program, Chavez said. Ramirez, who was born in Mexico, manages an auto parts store.

"I think these officers reflect the strength and diversity of our community," Chavez said as he stood before the crowded council chambers.

Focus on positives

District 1 Supervisor John Pedrozo was on hand during the meeting. He commended the Explorer Program and the two new reserve officers.

Too often, people only hear about negative news associated with youth, he said, adding that this was a good example of positive programs with which young people can be involved.

"We really need to acknowledge that," Pedrozo said.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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