The Hesperia City Council last Wednesday approved a waste disposal service fee increase of $1.59 per month for the average residential user with regular, unlimited service.

For those customers, monthly service charges will increase from $20.96 to $22.55 per month.

The waste disposal service fee hike represented a 4.3 percent rise in the Consumer Price Index and a 69 cent landfill tipping fee increase. The tipping fee is charged by the county to maintain the Victorville Landfill, which is managed by Burrtec.

The CPI, which is tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, reflects labor, electricity, supplies, equipment and gasoline cost increases.

Forty-three letters of protest were received prior to Wednesday's public hearing with another three received by the City Clerk during the meeting. But those letters represented only about .15 percent of the more than 20,000 Hesperia customers of Advance Disposal, according to Kim Summers, assistant to City Manager Mike Podegracz. A majority of Hesperia households - meaning at least 13,938 - would have had to have complained about the fees for the fee hike to be rescinded, according to Proposition 218.

Prior to the Council's decision, several residents spoke in protest of the fee raise.

"We don't even get a 4 percent increase in our Social Security," one woman said.

"I'm a widow and on a fixed income," another woman added.

"Why has Advance Disposal been the only disposal company in Hesperia for 30 years?" another resident asked. "When was the last time there was a competitive bid for the services here?"

"It's like hidden fees," Martin Willis said about the proposal. "When's it going to stop?"

"You should only be charged for what you're putting out," said another resident.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Leonard suggested the city consider reducing the 4.3 percent cost of living adjustment.

"Maybe we could look at bringing their COLA raise down," Leonard said.

But City Council members were confident the fee increase was fair and appropriate.

"There's not a lot of people from down below that want to come up and start a trash collection company," Councilman Ed Pack said. "They're in business. They've got to be profitable. I don't think they're unreasonably profitable."

Comparatively, Mayor Rita Vogler said, Hesperia's rates are competitive.

"Our trash rates here are so low," she said. "You have a good buy."

Attorney John Kelly Astor, who represents Advance Disposal, agreed with the council's assessment.

In regards to a customer's complaint that the company hadn't properly informed the public about discount programs to help low-income and senior citizens, he said, "The company is committed to doing whatever is right to getting the word out."

Furthermore, he said, Advance Disposal provides a quality product at a quality price.

"You've got a state-of-the-art facility. You've got a first-rate operation," Astor said. "Why has Advance been here for 30 years? Maybe because they're doing a good job."