Talking trash: Janesville City Council considers changes

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009
— The Janesville City Council on Tuesday cut the hours at the compost site, opted to look at other options for collecting garbage to raise revenue, and decided to charge for its compost.

The jury is still out, however, on whether it will allow the city to continue accepting out-of-county trash.

The discussion came during a budget study session, with staff estimating the landfill is operating at a $1.2 million deficit this year. If the trend continues, it will have about $200,000 in reserve by the end of 2010.

To save $15,538, the council reduced the compost site hours. It had been open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays; from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. The hours now mirror those of the landfill: 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

Council member Russ Steeber was opposed to the change, saying the hours don’t serve people who get off work after the site is closed. He suggested opening later to stay open later on some days, but John Whitcomb, operations director, said that could be confusing to contractors and seniors who use the facility early in the morning.

The council also decided to study alternative trash collection options.

City Manager Eric Levitt had suggested some sort of sticker system to allow residents to put out three or so bags a week and take any extra to the landfill free of charge. Anything else would be charged.

He expected the plan would raise about $150,000.

Residents don’t pay for their trash pickup now. Rather, it is paid for through sanitation funds supported by out-of-county haulers.

Council member Kathy Voskuil wondered if the process of saving $150,000 would just create more problems.

And council member George Brunner said residents “want their trash picked up and they want their streets plowed … There are other ways to increase revenue and not have to mess with somebody’s household trash.”

Other options to be studied include scheduling trash pickup every other week or putting bags on one side of the street.

The council also decided to charge for its compost to raise $25,000.

A suggestion to raise money by attracting outside trash haulers to the landfill remains in limbo.

Levitt said the city has a possible customer who would bring in an additional $874,000.

The city used to restrict trash to Rock County but in the 1990s contracted with outside haulers to make up for revenue shortages.

Council member Tom McDonald said it sounded like past councils “started on a slippery slope” when they started accepting the trash.

“I’d rather see us stop that,” he said. “We have a limited amount of space. Eventually, that is not sustainable. We’ve got to try to reverse the trend.”

Council member Frank Perrotto agreed that sooner or later, the city has to face reality.

“You’re going to run out of room,” he said. “What you’re doing is laying this burden on the next generation.

“I’m not convinced this is … the easy way to generate revenue ... I think you’re ignoring the future for the sake of today, and I think that’s wrong.”

Steeber said using the landfill as an asset makes sense when the city is facing its current shortfall. The council can look more closely at the policy in future years, he said.

“We’ve got a big hole we have to fill,” he said. “I understand we have a limited space out there, but we also have a duty to keep our property taxes as low as possible.”

The straw vote to eliminate the $847,00 from the budget failed on a 3-3 vote. Council member Yuri Rashkin was absent, so that item could likely come before the council again.

Last updated: 11:41 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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