For the second time in less than a year, garbage rates for Challis area residents and businesses will soon increase.

Challis City Council members approved the rate increase sought by Blue Mountain Refuse owners Wendall and Lisa Gohn after a May 5 public hearing.

All garbage services will see increases ranging from 3 to 34 percent. The rate hikes follow a 3 percent increase that took effect with November 2021 garbage bills after city officials signed off on that increase in September 2021.

The fees for residential cart pick-up are increasing the most, with hikes from 15 to 34 percent for those services. The percentage increases for larger containers ranges from 3 to 8 percent. The latest increases follow a fuel surcharge added to garbage bills that began with March service.

Wendall Gohn had a one-word reason for the price increase: inflation.

“My costs are up anywhere from 35 to 74 percent,” Gohn said. He recently purchased 12 Dumpsters for $12,000, he said. “Carts rot and break way faster than they used to.” Tires wear out quickly and are expensive to replace and drivers with commercial driver’s licenses won’t work for the $16 an hour rate Blue Mountain pays. Gohn said he needs to pay drivers $20 an hour to keep them on staff. Without drivers, the business can’t function, he said. “I’ve got to be able to pay drivers, replace equipment and fix equipment.”

He also struggles with recruiting drivers to Challis because of the absence of places to rent and the high price for any rentals that are available.

Gohn said he didn’t want to increase prices to customers, “but we have to.”

Council President Travis Hardy, who presided at the meeting in the absence of the mayor, told Challis resident Warren Jenson he was sickened by the high prices being charged for everything. “Look at eggs,” Hardy said. “My mom couldn’t believe what they cost now. It’s sad what’s happening.”

Jenson complained that the rates for senior citizens would increase between 17 and 34 percent. An average increase of 25 percent to senior citizens along with higher prices for groceries and gas is tough, he said.

“Everything but Social Security went up,” Jenson said. However, the Social Security Administration increased payments to beneficiaries by 5.9 percent in January with its 2022 cost of living adjustment.

Gohn told Jenson he understood his concerns and he thought all the stimulus money distributed in the last couple of years should have instead gone to retirement payments to help senior citizens.

Customers who are 65 and older are eligible for reduced senior citizen rates charged by Blue Mountain.

Resident Jerry Shield voiced his worry that higher prices will lead to more people dumping their trash around the county to save money. The two Gohns said that already happens.

But Shield said Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management staffers will take photos of dumped trash and that leads to public lands being closed.

Gohn said he expects to lose some customers over the price increase. He said three people stopped their service because of the recent fuel surcharge.

Councilman Chuck Felton, who participated in the meeting by phone, asked Gohn if he had a “drop dead point” of what could lead to Gohn selling his business. Gohn had earlier commented that he could sell all of his equipment and have enough money to retire. Responding to Felton, Gohn said he hadn’t made such a determination. Losing some customers could end up saving him some money in the offset of time to collect and haul trash to the landfill in Salmon and pay to dump it there, he said.

As the council wound down deliberation on the topic, Felton said “I’m not seeing any way around this or out of it. I think we should move forward.” But Felton said he wants the council to revisit the issue if things change and prices decrease.

Hardy said he hopes and prays that “things will go back where they were and subside. We’re sorry about this.”

Councilwoman JaNean Bradshaw said her motion to approve the increase was “sadly made.”

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