Price goes up for trash
An annual $40 fee for garbage pickup received no comment from Janesville City Council members during Tuesday's budget study session, making it a certainty that the fee will become a reality in 2011.
The council on Monday voted 6 to 1 to change an ordinance to reflect the increase. The increase is already included in the 2011 budget.
On Monday, Councilman Tom McDonald registered the sole vote against the fee, but that was because he doesn't think it goes far enough to encourage people to limit their trash. He preferred a smaller fee and a second charge based on volume.
Residents have not paid for trash pickup, recycling or disposal since 2005. Then, the council opted to accept trash from outside haulers, and those contracts paid for the landfill operation and garbage collection. The latter costs about $1.3 million.
The shift kept the city's levy under state-imposed levy limits set that year.
By 2007, the city had doubled its waste flow. Money was even transferred to offset the city's general fund.
But in 2009 and the economic downturn, the landfill lost a quarter of its waste and was facing a deficit.
The council over the past year has considered alternatives to save money, including garbage pickup every other week, but ultimately settled on a fee.
Some details of the new fee include:
-- Residents will find the fee on their water bills beginning in January. The cost will be $10 per quarter.
-- Residents will be charged the flat fee whether they are on vacation or whether they own an empty duplex.
-- Those who pay commercial haulers will not be charged the fee.
-- Landlords are responsible for any unpaid bill.
Councilman Frank Perrotto on Monday noted that the fee comes $250,000 short of paying the entire $1.3 million cost. The additional money will come from the reserve fund. At the end of this year, the reserve fund will have about $1.6 million. Last year, the landfill operation used about $750,0000 from its reserve fund.
City Manager Eric Levitt said he settled on the $40 per year fee because it did not seem to be such a shock. Beloit charges $13 a month for the same services, he said.
One resident, Al Lembrich, said during a public hearing on Monday that it isn't fair that residents must pay for a service when they are not using it.
"It's not a user fee if you don't use it," he said. "This fee system is unfair to many."
Resident Julie Backenkeller, though, a member of the Rock Environmental Network and the Janesville Sustainable Committee, recalled that she appeared before council members in 2007 and urged them to stop accepting outside garbage.
"They looked at me like I had snakes coming out of my ears," she said.
Since then, the city has taken in almost a half-million tons of other people's garbage, she said.
"We can choose to pay 77 cents a week or we can accept other people's trash" with the potential of harming our environment, she said.
Doug Marklein said a fee doesn't do anything to minimize the garbage created. He urged the council to find some system that would consider volume.
Councilman Russ Steeber said the fee is a step in the right direction but that he is open to anyone having a better idea.
Said McDonald: "This doesn't do anything to try to reduce trash flow, do anything for folks who leave the community for four to five months, (and it doesn't do anything) to punish people who put out eight to 10 (garbage bags) in a week.
"So I think this doesn't go quite far enough."
Said Councilman Yuri Rashkin: "This doesn't do a lot of things, but what it does do is provide a fee for a service that was previously provided for residents for free. That was a wonderful luxury we had, and it appears it is no longer a luxury that we can afford."
Councilwoman Kathy Voskuil said the city must educate residents to take responsibility for their garbage and for the environment.
The city is in a bit of a fix because it must reduce its garbage so it does not run out of space before a new landfill is dug by Janesville Sand & Gravel.
However, the council has decided to continue its outside contracts through 2011 so it can close the current cell more quickly. Odor has become a problem because of the cell's design, and staff hopes that will be solved when it is permanently capped in 2012.