All users should pay garbage service fee

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 8, 2002

For what should be a simple “get a service pay a fee matter,”garbage concerns continue to get officials’ time and attention.Apparently, however, paying for a service received is a conceptthat some elected officials and citizens have yet to grasp.

After earlier enacting a higher garbage fee schedule, Brookhavenaldermen last week considered reducing garbage rates for a smallnumber of individual commercial establishments. The lowered rates,if approved, would still be twice what the businesses were payingpreviously.

However, the city attorney said an individual business’ ratecould not be adjusted although he said the ordinance may could berewritten to accommodate all similar types of businesses.

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At a Lincoln County supervisors’ meeting last month, the boardrejected a request to exempt those citizens 85 years and older andwho live alone from the garbage fees. The thought behind therequest was that those citizens are likely on fixed incomes and donot generate much garbage.

It’s good for our city and county officials to want to helptheir constituents, but playing around with individual garbage feeexemptions and adjustments is a sure-fire way to get the “Me, Too”chorus singing quickly.

And rightly so. Without sound reasoning, it’s just not fair togive one customer a break and not do it for all those in similarsituations.

Another aspect of garbage pick up and disposal is that theservice has to be paid for through user fees, and citizens mustrealize this. A small portion of property taxes in the city goestoward paying for garbage service, but the amount is not great.

Officials here consistently fret and squirm any time the subjectof raising garbage fee surfaces. No one wants to pay more, butgarbage fees are a necessary evil and fact of life.

It appears the county was getting a break the last few yearswhen its garbage service was picking up garbage at more homes thanthe county was actually being billed. Supervisors are now dealingwith how to pay a $72,000 back bill and how to pay for continuedservice under a new higher house count.

In the city, which continues to run its own garbage service,residential and commercial rates stayed the same for years assurplus revenue covered the garbage tab. Now the surplus is goneand city officials are struggling with how to make garage servicesself-supporting.

A residential rate increase last year and the new commercialrate schedule earlier this year were passed in hopes ofaccomplishing that goal. But perhaps the new commercial rates werepassed too haphazardly or hastily to, as one alderman said, “putthe fees where the garbage is.”

The city’s new commercial garbage rate schedule could stand areview and some fine-tuning.

The thing that must be remembered is that those who use aservice, regardless of age, income level and other factors, shouldbe the ones who pay for it.