LA GRANDE — Residents living in outlying areas of Union County may soon see an increase in their garbage service rates.
The Union County Board of Commissioners will vote on a request by Waste-Pro for a 7.1% increase in garbage service rates for people living in unincorporated portions of Union County when it meets on Wednesday, Jan. 18.
The rate increase would help Waste-Pro pay for rising expenses. Over the past year, Waste-Pro has seen operating costs rise across the board — including those for fuel, labor and equipment.
Also, the Baker City Landfill, the closest place for the company to bring waste, is increasing its price yearly by 5%, according to the county.
Waste-Pro also provides garbage service to cities throughout Union County, which are facing similar requests for increases in service rates. The cities of La Grande and Cove are among those that have already approved an increase.
Also on the board’s agenda is a draft of a proposed Community Response Plan for smoke generated by prescribed burns and wildfires. It was developed after the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality awarded a $40,000 grant to Union County for the creation of a response plan.
If a plan is later formally adopted, it will provide the community with greater flexibility when regulating prescribed burning and other necessary smoke-generating activities. An approved plan would also help local municipalities obtain funding that could be spent on efforts to improve air quality impacted by wildfire smoke.
For example, it could put the city of La Grande in a position to get grants for improved air filtration systems at health care facilities and sites like libraries. Such places could then be used as air quality shelters when wildfires are generating significant amounts of smoke.
“We want to help smoke-sensitive populations,” Union County Emergency Manager Nick Vora said.
Vora also said a plan is needed because Union County has a large amount of public and private forestland where accumulating fuel can best be removed by prescribed burns. He said the Community Response Plan would help put La Grande in a position to receive waivers for some Oregon DEQ requirements that restrict smoke-generating activities such as prescribed burns while maintaining a “high sensitivity to and avoidance of impacts to sensitive populations.”
The lead writer of the plan is Willy Crippen, of the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Blue Mountain Cohesive Strategy Partnership.
A final version of the Community Response Plan will have to be approved by the La Grande City Council before it can take effect.
Approval by the Union County Board of Commissioners is not needed before the proposed Community Response Plan can take effect, but input from it will be valued, Vora said.
The Jan. 18 meeting will start at 9 a.m. in the Joseph Building, 1106 K Ave., La Grande. People can attend the meeting online or via phone. For access instructions, go to www.union-county.org/