Janesville residents could be charged to dump at compost site

Marcia Nelesen
Thursday, September 19, 2013

JANESVILLE--Should residents pay a separate fee to dump yard waste at the compost facility or should that cost be rolled into the overall trash fee?

Janesville City Council members Monday are expected to formalize a decision made earlier this year to almost double trash fees. Members also will discuss whether to levy a charge at the compost facility or roll that cost into the overall fee.

Acting City Manager Jay Winzenz and staff disagree how to charge residents at the compost facility, which accepts grass clippings, leaves and garden debris.

Winzenz said a new fee at the compost facility would encourage people to compost at home.

Operations Director John Whitcomb worries a fee would encourage residents to hide yard waste in their trash carts.

A public hearing on fees is scheduled for the  meeting that begins at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.

In June, council members decided residents should pay the full cost for collecting garbage and recycling. In 2014, that would be $89.96 a year if an additional fee were charged at the compost facility or $95.35 without the yard waste fee.

Residents now pay $56.

Landfill revenue for many years subsidized trash collection from the money it earned by taking trash from outside haulers. But the recession and a decision by council members to accept less outside trash to extend the life of the landfill have reduced the flow of trash and revenue.

“None of the costs for residential solid waste collection and disposal have been included in the property tax levy for many years,” Winzenz said in a memo.

The sanitation fund reserves will be depleted at the end of this year.

Whitcomb predicted some residents would put their yard debris in the regular trash if the city charges a drop-off fee at the compost facility. It would be difficult for the collectors to see the yard waste hidden in the wheeled trash carts used with the automated trash collection system, he said.

Winzenz considers the issue a matter of equity.

“If the yard waste fee is included in the monthly user fee, residents who choose to mulch or compost their own yard waste would also be forced to pay that fee,” Winzenz said.

“I believe we should be encouraging residents to mulch their grass clippings and compost their own yard waste rather than subsidizing the costs for those who choose not to.”

The proposed ordinance also would set new fees for those who dump at the demolition site.

The ordinance would:

-- Create a formula to recoup all costs of collection, similar to the formula used for the stormwater fee. Costs would likely change every year.

-- Establish a disposal fee of $5.50 per cubic yard at the demolition landfill for waste generated inside the city limits.

The demolition landfill accepts brush and clean demolition debris, such as unpainted or untreated wood, brick and concrete. That waste goes to an old quarry that is not lined and is restricted to only the cleaner materials, Whitcomb said.

The new fee would apply to both residents and commercial haulers.

A fee of $7 per cubic yard already is charged to those who live outside the city.

-- Allow only Janesville residents to use the composting facility.

-- Establish fees for the compost facility if needed.

Fees for residents could range from $20 to $40 per season, staff recommends. The $40 pass would be for unlimited visits.

Fees for commercial haulers are proposed at $5.50 per cubic yard.

Twice yearly yard waste pickup would continue, which costs about $30,000, Whitcomb said.

The compost facility has been a challenge, Whitcomb said.

The site is regulated by the state Department of Natural Resources, whose requirements include periodic turning of windrows and monitoring of temperatures. Decomposition must generate temperatures high enough to destroy pathogens, Whitcomb said.

At one time, for example, the city tried hauling raw yard waste to farmers, who worked it into their fields. The city also hauled it to other composting facilities.

The city uses the yard waste for its daily cover at the landfill. But that open area at the landfill is becoming smaller as the city closes the current cell.

“We're going to have to find another home for this stuff or manage it better to get a finished product that will sell and people want,” Whitcomb said.

“Until you grind it and screen it, not a lot of people want it,” he said.

“And that costs.”