No consensus on Quincy garbage plan one week before vote

Posted: Feb. 18, 2014 10:09 pm Updated: Mar. 4, 2014 11:14 pm
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Quincy aldermen still appear to be divided less than a week before they are scheduled to vote on the future of garbage and recycling collection in the city.

Three new proposals emerged Tuesday night, and a fourth alderman urged that no changes be made.

• Alderman Mike Farha, R-4, asked that an amendment be drafted raising the price of trash stickers a quarter to 75 cents and charging all private haulers with two or more trucks a 7 percent annual franchise fee on revenue from residential pickup.

• Alderman Paul Havermale, R-3, said he asked legal counsel to draft an ordinance that would end the city’s involvement in trash and recycling collection and have residents hire their own private hauler.

• Alderman Jennifer Lepper, R-5, is suggesting a hybrid system where sticker prices would be increased to $1 now, allowing the city to buy two new trucks for recycling and two new automated trucks for garbage, with residents eventually having the option of moving to a fixed-rate system using totes. These details are still being hammered out.

• Alderman Steve Duesterhaus, D-2, continued to advocate that the city not raise the price of trash stickers to help pay for garbage collection.

“Until we get more credible numbers on the budget, I have not seen anything yet that justifies an increase on stickers,” Duesterhaus said. “There’s value for having the general fund paying for a majority of the service. Everyone has a stake. No one can or try to evade that. It is much more equitable. It keeps the streets cleaner, and I think people have said and shown that they like the service the way it is.”

The debate over garbage and recycling collection began in earnest last fall when Mayor Kyle Moore announced the administration wanted to privatize those services, charging each of the nearly 15,000 households the same monthly fee.

When that plan met with stiff public opposition and gained no traction on the council, Moore countered with a proposal that would triple the cost of trash stickers to $1.50 each, with a 3 percent annual increase. Private haulers would still be allowed to operate in the city, despite an ordinance that prohibits it, but they would be charged a 5 percent franchise fee.

That, Moore said, would enable the city to remain in the garbage and recycling collection business, update its truck fleet and lessen the financial drain on the general fund.

Aldermen have been slow to embrace that plan, with many saying trash stickers were never intended to pay for garbage collection, the $1-a-sticker hike was too steep, and the program has always been considered a service — like fire and police protection, and clearing snow from streets — and was never intended to make money or break even.

“If you raise the sticker fee too high, then you are going to encourage people to go to private haulers, and you are going to collapse the system,” Farha said. “So it is in fact de facto privatization.”

Farha believes the 25-cent increase would generate an additional $325,000 a year, based on selling 1 million trash stickers. Trash sticker sales now account for about $625,000 a year. He said the franchise fee would generate another $100,000 annually.

Without any changes, the administration projects the city will need nearly $1 million from the general fund to cover the costs of the garbage and recycling program. Moore contends his latest proposal would make the program self-sufficient for two years before money would need to be pulled from the general fund.

Moore said the administration plans to release more details on Lepper’s proposal this week. Even though there appears to be no consensus, the mayor hopes aldermen will still reach a decision next week to allow the administration time to prepare a budget for the fiscal year that begins May 1.

Havermale would prefer the city end its involvement in trash and recycling collection.

“I want us to get out of the business and we’re done with it,” he said.