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SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Bachelor Finds Trash Bill Taxing

October 24, 1994|JEFF BEAN

Stuart Baron owes nearly $200 to a local trash hauler for unpaid charges he doesn't plan on paying.

The bachelor said he only generates one grocery bag of rubbish per month, disposes of it at the business where he works in Irvine, and recycles all his paper, cans and bottles.

Baron contends that a mandatory fee charged by the city's hauler, Solag Disposal Inc., is a tax because he doesn't receive a service in return.

"You can't have a mandatory fee," Baron said. "It's an oxymoron."

Baron said he has sought help from City Hall, but officials there say all they can offer is a reduced "exemption" rate of $6.59 per month.

The city imposed the trash fees in 1992 after it adopted a recycling program to meet state goals of reducing the garbage flow into landfills.

Douglas Dumhart, a city management analyst, said the exemption rate is for residents who don't want Solag Disposal service.

Dumhart said the fee is similar to a sewer fee, which households help pay that goes for capital expenses of a plant. In this case, such expenses would be special trucks and barrels that Solag Disposal had to purchase, he said.

"We feel that this system is the most equitable," Dumhart said. "Even with a vacant property, the bushes still grow and waste is produced."

Jim Koutroulis, president of Solag Disposal, said his company is caught in the middle.

"We didn't request the mandatory fee," Koutroulis said. "We are made (to be) the bad guys here."

Koutroulis said that about 40 to 50 people were given full exemptions in 1991 before the recycling service began.

He said the company has not decided what to do about Baron's unpaid bills.

Several other people are in similar situations, Koutroulis said.

Baron said he never received notice from the city in 1991 that he could get a full exemption, which is what he wants.

"This is absurd," Baron said.

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