After listening to a report from staff on the state of the city, including Economic Development Manager Amie Mendes’ report on her efforts to bring more business into Galt, 11 worried Galt business owners told City Council their trash rates had gone up as much as 750 percent. At the May 7 meeting, Kurt Smith, owner of the Velvet Grill and Creamery, told council members his trash bill will cost him $18,000 more this coming year.

“These businesses you want to attract, are they aware of these garbage rates?” asked Smith. “The city didn’t do a good job negotiating this contract … obviously, the council needs to do something. This is not going away.”

Ray Patel is in the middle of renovations on the old Royal Delta Inn. He said a Cal-Waste representative told him a 4-yard dumpster would go up from under $300 to $1,200.

“This is unethical,” Patel said. “We are looking at a large lawsuit coming. I love this city, but I took the dirtiest project to make you proud and now you’re putting me down.”

Patel said he wouldn’t open the doors on his Days Inn or break ground on the La Quinta project until the issue is resolved.

Gale Webber read a letter from Terry Parker Owning who had to be at the high school trustee meeting. Parker Owning’s letter stated her $350 per month trash bill has gone up to $1,700. She said many could not remain in business with the increase.

“Our neighboring cities have also negotiated contracts that even extend beyond the one we have with Cal-Waste,” read Webber. “Yet their rates have only gone up 2.9 percent instead of 300 percent. Elk Grove has five to six waste companies for their residents to choose from. Cal-Waste has a monopoly. This does not seem legal.”

Terry Carson, Chris Newel, Sunny Patel, Loren Thompson, Pedro Ramos, Catherine Hom, Amy Sandhu and Rachelle Herendeen also spoke on the trash rate hike. Many of the business owners said they’d have to pass on an increase to their customers and helping the community with events, and nonprofit organizations would also be hurt.

“You need to look at getting into an open market,” said Sunny Patel. “This is a monopoly. It’s not justifiable to charge big city rates in a small town.”

Sandhu said her rates have gone up 500 percent.

“We’re long term residents and business owners but this is ridiculous,” Sandhu said. “We can’t all afford it, and some businesses are going to have to shut the doors because they can’t make it.”

Loren Thompson spoke on behalf of Spaans Cookies. He said he would not bash Cal-Waste, a company he said has a “good heart,” but that enough was enough.

“We’ve been in business since 1958,” Thompson said. “We’re the $50,000 a year business. Our rates went up from $780 a month to $4,800 a month, from $10,000 per year to $60,000 per year. That’s a 600 percent increase … There comes a time when, as a community, we have to stand up and say enough is enough.”

Catherine Hom spoke on behalf of Galt Supermarket and said she could not afford to pay the new rates, which went up from just under $500 per month to over $3,500 per month.

“When I asked Jeff from Cal-Waste what my options were, he said I had none,” Hom said. “Well, actually he said I have the option to haul my garbage for myself if I didn’t want to pay the rates. Obviously, I can’t do that …  It’s hard enough to just survive, but to tack on an extra $40,000 that I wasn’t prepared for? I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Hom said it had made her look more closely at waste and recycling. She said she’s still taking trash home to dump it because she can’t afford the new rates. Her efforts have lowered her rates to about $1,800.

“Like most business owners, I can’t afford to raise my rates or my customers won’t shop with me,” Hom said. “If we all have to raise our rates, nobody is going to shop with us. They’re going to drive the 10 minutes away (to Lodi to pay less).”

Even though Mayor Paige Lampson told the audience it was against board policy to respond to any item not on the agenda before the first public speaker, she read a statement saying the city would work with Cal-Waste to make sure they’re working with their customers. Councilman Paul Sandhu and Vice Mayor Shawn Farmer also had comment.

“I’m not going to just sit here and not say something,” Farmer said. “Put me in the time-out box, whatever. It’s hard for me; I’m just biting my lip, I’m so angry. What we’re hearing from Cal-Waste who’s reaching out to us is it’s not geared in a way to promote recycling … This, to me, is a quality of life issue. This is not about business in Galt; this is a community issue … This is probably the single [worst] thing I’ve seen to critically injure business in this town.”

Farmer went on to say that this issue would be a “death nail” to many businesses.