Garbage fee increase discussed during budget session

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
— Council members will consider phasing in an increase of up to $40 in the garbage collection fee, an increase not originally suggested by Manager Eric Levitt in the 2012 budget.

Last year, the council levied a $40 yearly fee for garbage collection. The actual cost of collection, however, is just under $80 a year.

The council last year also directed staff to decrease the amount of trash accepted at the landfill beginning in 2012 so the landfill will last until 2045, when land will be available from a mining company.

Councilman Tom McDonald said during Tuesday's 2012 budget session that he is concerned the sanitation reserve fund will decrease $708,319 in 2012, leaving a balance of $296,575. The reserve held $2.7 million in 2008.

That's because the reserve subsidizes the residential garbage collection.

"We can either increase the revenue by bringing in more trash, like the city has over the years—and some people call it making Janesville the dumping ground around here—or we, as residents, are going to have to pay more for our garbage," he said.

The council could consider a combination of the two.

"I think we should start talking about this this year," McDonald said. Putting it off for another year will only put the city in a more difficult position, he added.

"Even though I'm not going to be there, I'd like to see this on the right track, even if it means making a difficult decision this year," he said. McDonald will not seek re-election in April.

Levitt agreed that not raising the fee and lowering the trash volume puts a "severe financial hit on the sanitation fund."

An increase in the garbage fee would come on top of a 21 percent water rate increase and a proposed $10 wheel tax.

The landfill has many fixed costs, regardless of the trash volume, John Whitcomb, operations director, said.

Increasing the tipping fee could also give the council more revenue. The city is already imposing an increase of $1 a ton.

"I'd rather see us do something immediately, as opposed to the water fee," McDonald said, noting that the city delayed increasing water rates last year but residents now face a 21 percent increase.

Whitcomb also provided additional information about automated trash pickup.

The city would buy trucks that could lift wheeled carts and dump the contents into the trucks. Residents would put their trash in one cart and their recyclables in another, eliminating the need to sort the recyclables.

The city has tentatively decided to buy two carts for each residence but does not know yet how it will handle requests for additional carts.

People should be able to recycle their old garbage cans, he said.

Whitcomb said automated pickup presents some challenges, such as Christmas tree pickup or pickup of garbage that doesn't fit in the carts. The city could hold amnesty days, for example, when people could clean out their garages and pile up more garbage, he said. The workers would get out of the trucks and manually load the garbage on those days.

The city also proposes in the 2012 budget to stop accepting roofing shingles at the landfill. Residents would have to pay to dispose them at recycling outlets.

Last updated: 6:39 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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