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Several options discussed to help ease garbage woes

A solid waste dilemma has city fathers contemplating an increaseof monthly fees, reducing services, seeking a private contractor orother options in an effort to make garbage pick up expenses andrevenue balance.

The city’s solid waste operation has been losing money, and thecity is nearing the end of its rope as far as covering costs withprior years’ surplus and interest, aldermen learned during a budgetwork session Monday night.

“It’s not near about paying for itself,” said City Clerk IrisRudman.

Rudman said the city is limited to a four-mill property tax levyand garbage collections fees in how it may pay for the service. Thecity is currently levying the maximum four mills for garbageservices.

Raising the $9 a month fee to $10 would generate an additional$49,200. And based on last year’s collections and totals, alandfill compost fee increase from $10 a ton to $15 a ton and agarbage disposal fee from $33.40 a ton to $36 would generate atcombined $452,971 in new revenue.

However, that additional revenue would still leave the city inan approximately $174,000 hole, said Rudman, who also included afew thousand dollars more from the property tax levy as a result ofhigher values.

Rudman cited a 1996 law change requiring that the solid wastefund be self-sufficient. She said that means the solid waste budgetcould no longer be subsidized with general fund money.

The city clerk pointed out that the city can anticipate $976,000in revenue. Employee expenses, though, account for $611,000 and thetipping fee for carrying garbage to an approved landfill is$213,000, leaving the remainder for maintenance and otherneeds.

The garbage situation had officials in a quandary Mondaynight.

In addition to fee increases, options discussed includedreducing service from twice-weekly garbage pick up to once a week,capitalizing on the city-owned transfer station and going to aprivate contractor like the county has.

Mayor Bill Godbold lobbied against going to a privatecontractor.

By operating the service, Godbold said the city would maintaincontrol. Also, a private contractor would have yearly feeincreases, and the mayor indicated that could worsen the city’sproblem.

“We need to think long and hard before we do something likethat,” Godbold said, urging aldermen to maintain city-run servicesas long as possible.

If the city were to get out of the pick-up business, Godboldspeculated it could cost $2 million to resume services if a privatecontractor doesn’t work out.

“We can’t afford that,” Godbold said.

Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner indicated support formaintaining a city-operated service.

“If we get out of it, it’s going to cost us more in the longrun,” the alderman said.

Officials reached no conclusions last night. A solid wasteconsultant is on the agenda to speak to the board at Tuesday’sregular meeting.

City fathers will discuss the solid waste situation withdepartment heads during another work session scheduled for nextMonday.