Latrobe council rejects refuse rate hike
Latrobe Council last week rejected a rate increase for refuse taken to the city's transfer station.
The refuse collection committee had recommended that rates for minimum charges be increased from $8 for the first 200 pounds to $12.
Councilman Ken Baldonieri argued that the increase would cause a deficiency that would make dumping more than 200 pounds but less than one ton cheaper than the first 200 pounds.
“You're paying more for dumping less,” he said.
A per-pound fee of a little more than 4 cents per pound would then be levied for amounts up to one ton, following the previous policy.
The committee recommended retaining the cost per ton at $95.
With a 3-4 vote, the increase was rejected. Baldonieri, Mike Skapura, Rosie Wolford and Mayor Barbara Griffin voted against the measure while Councilmen Richard Jim, Robert Forish and Fabian Giovannagelo voted for it.
Councilman Richard Jim refuted the deficiency in the rates, but Baldonieri said he also believed if the trash contract was rejected, the rates should remain the same.
“I think we need to be prudent in evaluating this ordinance,” Baldonieri said. “There's no need to rush to raise those rates at this point. I think we should vote no.”
Jake brakes prohibited on Route 981
In other business, council approved enacting an ordinance that would limit the use of engine brake retarders on Route 981 — also named Lloyd Avenue, Ligonier Street, Depot Street, Lincoln Avenue and Main Street —in the city.
The diesel engine brakes, commonly referred to as “jake brakes” after the inventor, help slow the engine quicker than wheel brakes on long downhill grades or stop lights.
Fines for a first offense by any truck drivers, exempting any vehicles, will cost $50 plus costs of prosecution. The same operator committing any subsequent violations within a two-year period will cost $100 in fines.
The measure passed after a 6-1 vote with Baldonieri as the only dissenting vote.
“We have no hills on the streets that have been designated,” he said. “There's no usage of jake brakes. I've lived in this town for 64 years; I've never heard a jake brake.”
Council also approved a resolution to include city workers' adult children in the self-funded dental and vision plans.
City Manager Alex Graziani brought the measure before council after an employee inquired about the coverage.
Health coverage for workers' children over 18 who are no longer students but under 26 are included in the benefits with UPMC Health Plan. Dental and vision care were not.
Graziani explained that nine children would be eligible, but six are students, so only three could be added to the coverage.
“Of course, that would change from year to year like any other benefit in a self-funded plan,” he said.
Graziani said fees would not increase with the additional coverage. Wolford said she opposed the measure, as it should be discussed when renegotiating employee benefits.
“I believe this is an item that should have been bargained and probably should be bargained with the next contract,” she said. “I think there's potential costs long-term in the next five, 10 years that we don't know about.”
Skapura asked if the federal Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect in 2014, required such a measure and Graziani answered that only health care was required for the adult children.
Councilman Richard Jim moved to table the resolution, but the motion failed.
With Skapura, Wolford and Giovannagelo dissenting, the measure passed 4-3.
In a related measure, council approved a contract renewal with UPMC for medical coverage.
Graziani explained that the contract rates increased 19.9 percent from the 2012-13 plan, which means a $47,039 increase in costs for the city effective between July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014.
“We experienced as a group a challenging year last year, which really resulted in this increase,” Graziani said.
In 2011-12, the city transferred coverage from Highmark health care coverage to UPMC, which resulted in a 47 percent savings.
The city manager said he requested quotes from three competitors that were higher than increased rates as well as the rates Highmark had charged.
Electricity contract to save thousands
Council also approved a new two-year electricity contract with First Energy Solutions that would save Latrobe about $98,000 or 10 percent in costs.
Graziani reported that the city holds about 35 separate accounts for different properties, including the municipal building, fire department and transfer station.
The city uses 1.46 million kilowatt hours in electricity per year, he said.
The rate per kilowatt hour will decrease with the new contract from 0.64 cents per kilowatt hour to 0.573 cents.
Stacey Federoff is a Trib Total Media staff writer. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.