What's going on with Waste Management in Monterey County? Marsha emailed me and asked, "Dear Jon, there are 37 households on Oak Heights Drive and Shady Lane in Salinas. Now Waste Management wants to charge us $15 more a month because our hill is steep, why?"
After further research on this question, Waste Management safety auditors recently went through this and other areas of Monterey County with a review. Company auditors were looking for areas that they felt posed a risk to their drivers such as overhanging limbs, steep and narrow roads, etc. As it turns out their safety audit spawned 1880 letters to customers in rural Monterey County.
They determined this neighborhood and others, as "difficult to service" and so they sent a letter to the residents saying due to this safety concern they're adding an extra $15 to their bill for a steep road in the Oak Heights area.
As it turns out, Waste Management says in their contract with the County, they can increase a customer's fee up to 50% of their base rate for issues they deem necessary to charge extra for. In the case of another customer that contacted me, their monthly bill was going to be increased by 40%.
This safety fee from Waste Management is on top of a rate hike approval from the county in January. Not to mention the fact that these residents also pay the annual state fire fee for being a rural area.
I went up into the area, which is just west of the Crazy Horse Canyon interchange on Highway 101. This area is wooded, hilly and the road is steep in places.
Waste Management safety auditors said in their letter that roads at a 15-degree slope would be imposed an extra $15 fee. The company says the drivers have to feel safe and they don't on the steepest parts of Oak Heights and Shady Drive.
So residents spoke up and with Dear Jon on the case, Waste Management has decided to suspend this safety audit fee. The company admitted that they were, "a little ambitious and they need to think this through."
They're notifying residents of this with a phone call and a new letter that better explains their intentions.
The company believes that if they are safer now it'll cost less for customers moving forward. But they do admit working with individual customers is a better way to go, as opposed to a blanket safety fee for the entire neighborhood.
Stay tuned to Central Coast News and my Dear Jon reports for continued updates on this issue.
If you have a question or a concern to share with me, email me by clicking the email link above or at DearJon@KIONRightnow.com. I'm also on social media including Facebook and Twitter.