July 15, 2002 11:00 pm

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Every-other-week garbage and curbside recycling will be the least expensive and one likely to win approval from the La Grande City Council Wednesday night.

That option will add $4.65 a month to bills, city officials said.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is pushing the city into initiating curbside recycling of household items such as newspapers, mixed paper, magazines, cardboard and tin cans. State law requires that the city provide this service. DEQ said it must be in place by the end of this year.

Until now, an alternative program whereby residents could take their household recyclables to a center on Willow Street has been allowed by DEQ as an exception permitted by the law.

In May, the DEQ notified the city that it was no longer acceptable because the recovery rate for recyclables (compared to the total amount of garbage) in the county is just 22 percent. DEQ says the recycle rate in the county must be at 25 percent or better.

City Manager Wes Hare said in a report to the city council that the every-other-week plan seemed most acceptable.

"This option pushes us to recycle more while still providing adequate garbage disposal," he said.

Hare said he felt that being able to keep the cost down is a major concern of La Grande residents.

Under this option of every-other-week pickup of recyclables and garbage, Hare sees a 25 percent increase in the cost per month to customers of City Garbage Service, which has the franchise for the service.

Someone maintaining a weekly service would see a 50 percent increase in their costs, Hare said.

"I do not believe most people would need recycling services every week," Hare said.

At the same time as the increase for collecting recyclables — which will be commingled into one large push cart the size of the garbage cans now used — there will be an increase to cover a rise in the tipping fees City Garbage Service has to pay Union County to haul garbage to the Fox Hill Landfill.

Those costs will go up from $12 to $22 a ton. The increase will also permit City Garbage Service to expand the hours it keeps open its Materials Recovery Facility on Highway 30 from two days a week to six.

The city council will consider several options when it meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall.

Community Development Director Mike Hyde said that under some options, residents have a choice of selecting the service they want if the city council approves any of these.

But under the cheapest option — monthly garbage collection with every-other-week recycling — all customers of City Garbage would have to agree to the service in order to make it work, Hyde said.

The proposed options include a built-in increase to help City Garbage Service make up for the money lost if a majority of the customers are shifted from weekly to every-other-week garbage service. Also included in the fee is a small amount to subsidize collections from low-income households.

What it will cost monthly, compared to the current rates:

Service Current Monthly Increase

Weekly garbage $10.50 $16.18 $5.68

Weekly curbside recycling

Every-other-week garbage $8.50 $13.63 $5.13

Weekly curbside recycling

Weekly garbage: $10.50 $15.70 $5.20

Every-other-week curbside recycling

Every-other-week garbage $8.50 $13.15 $4.65

Every other week recycling

Monthly garbage $6.25 $10.54 $4.29

Every-other-week curbside recycling