(Posted May 20, 2019)
By Andrew Garrett, Staff Writer
A small but vocal contingent of mostly senior citizens addressed London city council on May 16 about proposed changes to the city’s trash pick-up system and rates.
Council is considering legislation that would eliminate use of official “London bags” for weekly waste pickup, replacing them with large trash cans with lids. The change would increase trash pickup fees from $10 per month to $17.80 per month. In addition to the rate increase, $7.20 would be tacked on each month for one year to finance the new cans.
Residents expressed concerns about the impending hike to their monthly bill as well as the large size of the cans. They said they are worried about the space the cans would take up, as well as difficulties in maneuvering them and possible safety issues that might result. More than once, they said that many residents do not produce enough weekly trash to warrant going with the larger cans.
“I just feel like it is going to be a burden on seniors,” said resident Betty Porter, echoing the sentiment of many people in the audience.
According to council member Anthony Smith, a rate increase must happen, whether or not this particular piece of legislation is passed.
“Whether we do have the bags or don’t have the bags, the cost will go up,” he said.
The city’s last rate increase for trash pickup was in 2005, according to Smith.
“Nobody has wanted to deal with this issue,” he added.
If passed, the increase would go toward maintenance on an aging garbage truck fleet and replacement of trucks when necessary. It would also help to keep local residents employed, Smith said.
If trash collection is outsourced, not only would local jobs be lost, but according to his research, there would be no real savings, Smith said.
Switching to cans also would help prevent trash in open recycling bins from blowing all over the city, he added.
As it stands, the proposal would not allow for residents to purchase just one can. All residences would receive a 96-gallon can for trash and a 64-gallon can for recyclables.
Council members conceded that a 35-gallon option might be needed, especially for condominium living. However, the smaller cans likely would not decrease what residents see on their bills–at least as things stand now–as there is no real difference in cost from a wholesale perspective between the varying sizes.
The city would not make money from the sale of the cans, according to Steve Scaggs, Board of Public Utilities (BPU) member. The cans would be sold to residents “at cost.”
For individuals who might have difficulty maneuvering the cans, the city would offer door service for an additional $2.20 per month.
The legislation also calls for providing residents with a free monthly pickup of up to 2 cubic yards of items that don’t fit in the trash cans.
BPU will meet to discuss the issues brought up by residents before the legislation goes to a third reading at the next council meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. June 6.
In new business, council read legislation that would establish a Community Reinvestment Area for the city. The plan–developed by Mayor Patrick Closser, council President Joe Russell, city Law Director Jennifer Hitt, and David Kell, executive director of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce and Madison Community Improvement Corp.–is intended to incentivize residential and commercial development within the city. It will give developers a tax abatement of 100 percent for up to three years or until the developed properties are sold. The exemption would remain with the developer and would not be transferred to the purchaser of the property.
According to Closser, it is a smart and financially responsible way to promote new residential builds and, along with the tax dollars that their inhabitants would generate, is greatly needed for the city.