(Posted June 10, 2019)
By Andrew Garrett, Staff Writer
Soon, London residents will no longer have to buy the official London trash bags or deal with refuse that escapes from open recycling bins.
Council voted 5-1 on June 6 to adopt amended legislation that will replace the bag and bin system with large, roll-away trash cans. The cans will come with lids that should prevent garbage from blowing all over the city, a blight that at least one council member and one resident mentioned at the June 6 council meeting.
The switch comes at a price. Current residents must pay $7.20 per month for one year to finance the cans, in addition to $17.80 per month (up from $7.80) for trash pick-up service. Residents who move into the city after the new rates take effect will have to pay for the cans up front.
The city had initially envisioned issuing one 96-gallon trash can and one 64-gallon recycling can per residence. After pushback from some residents about the can sizes, they decided to offer a 35-gallon option, as well. The cost will remain the same no matter what size a resident orders. Because the city intends to continue its recycling program, residents must buy two cans, one for trash and one for recyclables. These can be any combination of sizes offered. Additional cans may be purchased for $4.45 per can per month for one year.
Assistance service, formerly called back-door pick-up service, will be available for an additional $2.20 per month. Council decided to waive this fee for seniors 65 years and older and qualifying people with disabilities. Applications for the fee waiver are available at the Board of Public Utilities. Applicants must provide a photo ID and a copy of registration for a handicap parking placard or verification that they receive disability benefits.
Trash cans will be imprinted with serial numbers and come with warranties in excess of 10 years.
Exactly how residents will notify the city of their choice in size of cans has yet to be determined. Options discussed included mailers, forms printed in the newspaper, and space on water/sanitation bills.
Council member Rex Castle, who cast the single dissenting vote (Brenda Russell was absent), said he wanted to see more evidence of “due diligence” in the legislation. His main issue was with the increase of the monthly sanitation fee.
“We need to have financial backup to show us what we’re voting on,” he said. “We’re blindly voting for a rate increase.”
According to council member Anthony Smith, the city has not raised trash rates since 2005. He asked council and the audience to name any business that hasn’t raised its rates since that year. He noted that in 2018, the sanitation department was $150,000 in the negative.
Council member Henry Comer asked why the rate increase wasn’t being put on the ballot for the people to decide.
Steve Scaggs and Stan Kavy, members of the Board of Public Utilities, did not see a vote as being a good option, as it could only mean privatization of the department, resulting in the loss of local jobs, less services provided, and a rate increase no matter what.
“So, your vote would be, do you want to pay a lot more (with privatizing) or do you want to have an increase (in rates dictated by the city) and still be lower?” Smith asked.
A date has not been set for when the new system will roll out or when the new fees will go into effect. Scaggs said the timeline likely will be discussed at the next Board of Public Utilities meeting set for 6:30 p.m. June 27 at city hall.
(***Note: This story was updated on June 17. Originally, it stated that residents could not choose to purchase two 96-gallon cans. In actuality, they can purchase any combination of sizes offered.)