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Council delays garbage decision

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
May 26, 2010
— "You don't mess with people's trash," Councilman George Brunner said at Tuesday's study session on the landfill.

"That's something that's been said in Janesville for as long as I remember."


And so, the council won't. At least until August, when staff needs some direction to develop the 2011 budget.


Most council members appeared to favor combining a cut in service with an increase in fees and reducing the intake of garbage from outside the city to close a looming revenue gap.


There was a time when property taxes partially subsidized the landfill. But over the years the landfill began paying for the collection and disposal of residents' garbage—$1.1 million—and recycling.


In 2005, the city began to solicit out of county garbage. The landfill made enough money to subsidize the general fund—$450,000 in 2010.


Garbage, though, has dropped by almost a quarter since the start of the recession. The landfill still makes money to pay for itself but no longer for other city services.


In addition, some council members and community members are concerned about bringing outside trash into the city to more quickly fill the landfill and possibly increase health risks.


Carl Weber, public works director, said the council's decision to reduce trash would help the city bridge a 10-year gap when the city has no land to expand. At the current rate, the available space will run out in 2035. But the city's agreement with Janesville Sand & Gravel doesn't require the company to vacate the area until 2045.


Weber and his staff will return with more details in August.


They include:


-- Collecting garbage every other week for a savings of $305,000. Manager Eric Levitt said this is a major change, and the council must consider the ramifications, especially during the heat of summer. Yuri Rashkin was the only council member to say he didn't like that idea.


-- Reducing the flow of garbage. City residents generate about 16,000 tons of garbage a year, and that is not enough to efficiently run the landfill, Weber said. Most landfill costs are fixed, so staff will look at a suggested number between that and the current 250,000 tons.


-- A sticker so staff can easily identify residents at the landfill and charge non-residents for trash.


-- A user fee, either fixed or based on volume. Council members hope to get that fee below the suggested $42 when other options are included.


Council members discussed the relationship between bringing in outside garbage and increased health risks.


John Whitcomb, operations director, said the city assumed that health risk when it sited a landfill in its city limits decades ago. The city will end up with a fixed mass of waste whether it is in 10 or 20 years, he said.


The risk would be greater if residents get their water from rural wells, he said.


Kathy Voskuil said she would do her own research on that issue.


"I do struggle with the comment that there is not increased risk with increased garbage," she said.



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