St. Croix trash haulers stopped hauling for two days and held a public meeting Tuesday to protest trash tipping fees that went into effect that day, prompting the Waste Management Authority to put off the fees until September.
WMA officials plan to meet with haulers, who object most to basing fees by weight, and see if a compromise can be worked out.
“We are not disagreeing that you have to pay for your trash. But you can’t do it only on the backs of small haulers,” Atlantic Trucking’s E. Roger St. Rose said Wednesday.
St. Rose said it is impossible to know the weight of a bin or a truck load in advance, so a weight-based fee forces small haulers to pay the fee to WMA up front, then go back to their customers and try to bill them.
“The fees are so high the customers will never pay. We can’t collect from the public so my only recourse is small claims court,” St. Rose said, adding that “We shouldn’t be burdened with collecting money for the government.”
He said haulers could work better with a volume-based fee.
“That way you have a flat rate … and we know what we are charging the customer up front,” he said.
He also suggested the fees are too high, and that other ways of collecting fees should be considered. Fees could be assessed when builders get building permits, or as part of Water and Power Authority billing, as a per-household fee or a surcharge on property taxes, he suggested.
Businesses that generate a lot of trash could be billed annually and have to pay the fee in order to renew their business license, he also suggested.
The government pays for trash pick up in some areas but not others. Giving free service to some puts a disproportionate burden on those who do have to pay, he said.
Calls to other trash haulers for comment were not returned as of 7 p.m. Wednesday.
St. Rose said the haulers met with WMA officials Wednesday and the fees were waived for a month while both sides try to work out a solution. He said trash hauling resumed immediately.
WMA communications director Alice Krall said Wednesday the meeting with haulers went well.
“Based on our discussion, we are putting the tipping fees on hold until Sept. 1 so that we can meet with all the territory’s haulers to address their concerns,” Krall said.
After meeting more with haulers, WMA will have to go back to the Public Services Commission to amend the fee structure, she said.
“We are working with them to make it equitable and try to make it work for everybody,” Krall said.
Trash tipping fees were put in place because the V.I. Waste Management Authority is starved for funds to run its operations amid a governmentwide fiscal crunch. After years of attempts to establish disposal fees on goods coming into the territory or other forms of user fees, in April 2016, the Public Services Commission approved the solid waste tipping fees for those dumping trash in volume at the territory’s landfills and collection centers.
The V.I. Waste Management Authority proposed another set of user fees in 2007 but the PSC rejected them at the time.
The tipping fee per ton varies by type of debris, from $31.28 for fill waste to $65.26 per ton for construction and demolition waste.
The scale at the Bovoni landfill is not functioning, which led to delays in implementing the fees, then a temporary system of charging by volume instead of weight on St. Thomas.
This difference may account for why St. Croix haulers are more upset than St. Thomas haulers, St. Rose said.
“This would put me out of business in less than three months,” he said.
According to VIWMA, it costs about $10.2 million per year for the authority to manage 200,000 tons of solid waste. The tipping fees were expected to generate about $6.9 million, with services to residents expected to cover the balance.