A rate increase for solid waste disposal has cities throughout Harrison County adjusting budgets. The disposal fee, which until recently has remained unchanged for 15 years, is increasing by more than $10 a ton.
Utility Authority Executive Director, Donald Scharr says a 15 year contract between the Harrison County Utility Authority and Waste Management's Pecan Grove landfill ended in August.
"So we advertised for a new disposal contract and the prices came in substantially higher than they've been in the past," said Scharr, who noted he knew the prices wouldn't work.
Ultimately, the rate is up to the city to fund. Long Beach Mayor Billy Skellie says the only option was to send the proposal back.
"The board was not happy so we asked them if we could re-advertise and get some more proposals," said Skellie.
Scharr negotiated to lower the rate with the landfill. While the deal was more favorable than the first, it is still more than the county had been paying; increasing from $3 a ton to $15 a ton.
According to Biloxi's Chief Administrative Officer, David Nichols, that number may look more intimidating than it actually is.
"Even though that is a huge jump, it will be in place for 10 years to come," said Nichols.
According to Nichols, in Biloxi the rate translates to a little more than $1 per user per month, with most of the garbage rate covered by user fees. Nichols expects that to be the case for this ten year contract when the budget is voted on later this month.
As for Long Beach, users will not be seeing an increase in 2015. According to the mayor, the city has an overage on its account with the county.
"And so we're going to apply that overage this year to offset that increased cost," said Skellie.
But, that may not be the case for 2016. Skellie says the board will reevaluate when the time comes.
"If it's necessary, then we'll go forward with it then," added Skellie.
According to Scharr, the new rate is still 50 percent less than the average of what other counties in the state are paying. WLOX has reached out to the other cities in Harrison County. County-wide, budgets haven't been finalized, so the numbers aren't officially in place at the time of this report.