Wildomar authorizes waste rate increase, approves mandatory spay, neuter city code


The Wildomar City Council authorized a rate increase for waste management collection services that helps the city avoid costly fines from the State of California Wednesday, Aug. 14, as well as approved a new city code making it mandatory for residents to spay, neuter and microchip their pets.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, the council weighed an authorization that would result in a rate increase of about $8 per month for waste management collection services that will now include green waste, refuse and recycling cans throughout the city.

“This rate adjustment is in accordance with the contractually required rate adjustment as set forth in the franchise agreement and the city council adoption on June 2019 of a fourth amendment to the franchise agreement implementing the residential basic level option,” Robert A. Howell, Wildomar’s accounting manager, said. “The proposed rate represents weekly trash, green waste and recycling collection services to all customers that we commenced starting in Oct. 1, on July 1 of each year for the following four years, beginning July 1, 2022, and including July 1, 2024, rate adjustments will be calculated pursuant to the formula that is included in the franchise agreement.”

Resident Linda Hilton spoke in opposition to the rate increase.

“I’m actually a homeowner within The Farm community, and I just wanted to say that there are many of us who are against the raise that they’re requesting,” she said. “It’s not so much that they’re looking for an increase that we’re against. It is the amount of the increase that we’re against. I’m currently paying $20 per month and change is now going to increase to $28 a month and change. I am on a fixed income as many of us are at The Farm community. I am not the age of retirement yet. I am also disabled, and there are many of us who are disabled as well. I am also widowed; there are widows and widowers who are single who are on fixed incomes who are not quite at the age of retirement, who are on a fixed income, as well as our active veterans and their families that live within our community or also on very low incomes.”

A representative from USA Waste of California addressed the questions about the increases.

“This is not an $8 increase is actually going to cost us money,” the representative said. “We have to purchase additional trucks, obviously drivers. So there’s a lot of costs we have in order to provide that level of service that the city is requesting. As far as her case went, let me work with her and see what we can do.”

She also said she would research the availability of smaller bins for low income or residents on a fixed budget.

Councilmember Ben Benoit said the rate adjustments have come after a long process.

“There were lots of different issues,” Benoit said. “Probably one of the first franchise subcommittee meetings we had here, we had people coming in with certain issues, especially with the green waste bins. I’m happy to see that we’re finally fixing that issue. I know it’s a burden, but Cal Recycle would tell us as a city if we didn’t have green waste bins across our city that they would start fining us up to $10,000 or $15,000 a day for our city.

“Frankly they overlooked that for a few years, and then there’s been a bit for the last year or two where we said, ‘We’re working on it, so please don’t fine this yet.’

“If we were to deny this today and not get those green waste bins out, we would be on the hook from the state and having to pay that. So, I know that this is not easy and it’s not something we want to ever do to, to burden our residents, but it’s, the state requires this stuff.”

The council approved the rate increase 4-0 with councilmember Dustin Nigg absent.

The council also unanimously approved the adoption of Municipal Code Chapter 6.06 which would require spaying, neutering and microchipping of cats and dogs within city limits.

According to Assistant City Manager Dan York, of the 8,300 dogs and cats that were collected and sheltered at Animal Friends of the Valleys, 16% of those animals were collected from the city of Wildomar.

During his staff report, York said there would be exemptions from the law to include licensed hobby breeders.

“There are exemptions in there,” York said. “We did provide some opportunities for hobby breeders …. exactly what the city of Lake Elsinore has done. Very similar to what the city of Menifee has already done. The language is also similar to the county, but different. They have a much bigger organization.”

Resident Kenneth Mays urged the council to hold off on the municipal code’s approval.

“This resolution should not be adopted until such time as every effort has been made to ensure that more emphasis on educating pet owners about proper pet care,” Mays said. “And more tax dollars toward low cost and free spay and neuter clinics along with increasing the number of licensed animals in Wildomar. The current population of animals out there currently licensed in Riverside County was less than 20% with no evidence of mandatory stay on newer lows actually work when licensing doesn’t.”

Julie Fischer spoke in support of the municipal code’s approval.

“I believe this ordinance needs to pass,” she said. “The only way that we’re going to curb this population is by spaying and neutering and microchipping.”

Councilmember Bridgett Moore spoke in support of approval.

“I’m talking about the humane, the humane aspect of this,” she said. “And the goal of the animal shelter that’s located here in Wildomar is to not have to put down animals. And the only way we’re going to accomplish that is by having this mandatory spay, neuter and microchipping ordinance.

“And so fewer animals for Wildomar having to be sheltered, it means fewer costs coming from the city. So, it does affect the community. It all ties together. So, I’m definitely for this ordinance,” Moore said.

Councilmember Joseph Morabito asked how the municipal code would be enforced.

“We’re not going to go canvassing and looking for animals,” Animal Friends of the Valleys’ chief animal aontrol officer said. “That’s where most people think at this point, ‘oh my God, I’ve got to hide my dogs, my cats.’ If we’re called to your home for any reason, such as a noise nuisance, animal cruelty, animal welfare or anything like that, and your animals are not spayed or neutered, you could be cited at that point.

“Again, the options are going to be there. We’re going to give you a spay and neuter voucher. I’m going to help you out. We want to get your animal done. At that point, the citation will go away. OK? So, it’s going to be kind of more of a support and then it is going to be enforcement.”

Middleton said she believes the fines to be $50 for the first code violation and $250 for the second.
“But again, we’re trying to help the community so that first fine will be waived if the animal is done within, I think Wildomar has a 10-day time period for correction on their citations,” she said.

The council also approved an alternative staff recommendation to not accept the planning commission’s recommendation to deny the change of a land-use zoning for the Store America location on Mission Trail Road.

The decision by the council means it will direct the planning and engineering departments to finish processing the applicant’s request for a General Plan Amendment, Zone Change and Conditional Use Permit, including the appropriate CEQA environmental review and analysis, as part of the city’s development review process.

The council also unanimously approved the consent calendar which included the second reading of an ordinance to establish speed limits and speed zones on Grand Avenue and Clinton Keith Road, adopted a proposed Unclaimed Money Policy and an agreement with Data Ticket to provide administrative citation processing and collection services and approved the city’s participation in the U.S. Bank Purchasing Card program offered in California through the National Association of State Procurement Officials.

The council will meet again Wednesday, Sept. 11.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.