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City sanitation fee facing an increase

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 3:02 pm

When the Fayetteville Board of Mayor and Aldermen meets this week, they are expected to increase sanitation rates, or garbage collection fees, by $4 each month for most residents and businesses.

During their work session Thursday, the board discussed the dilemma of increasing maintenance costs on its two garbage collection trucks, one of which is 17 years old and the other, nine years of age, and the continuing disparity between sanitation expenditures and revenues.

Last year, the city got out of the commercial dumpster business, decreasing costs considerably, but with the need to replace one truck this year and the other in the next two or three years, the board is considering the purchase of a new automated truck as well as collection carts that would be used citywide by residents and businesses. The costs of implementing the new method of garbage collection, with the automated truck and carts, would total an estimated $372,750 – $210,000 for the outfitted truck and $162,750 for 3,100 garbage collection carts, which the city would provide one each to households and businesses. The carts, which could also be purchased in additional quantities, would be needed to work in conjunction with the automated trucks.

That, coupled with the continuing gap between expenditures and revenues, prompted consideration of the increase from $10 to $14 per month for garbage collection for residents and from $15 to $19 per month for businesses. Over the last six months, in the time the city ended its commercial dumpster program, sanitation expenditures have amounted to $203,081, compared to $183,233 in revenue.

The only exception to the $14 per month residential fee would be the fee charged Fayetteville Housing Authority residents – they would pay $12 per month, versus their current fee of $8 or $10 a month.

According to the proposal presented during Thursday’s work session by Eddie Plunkett, director of public works for the city, the new fees would generate $41,999 per month or $503,988 per year, compared to current figures of $30,373 and $364,476.

As part of their consideration, officials also reviewed a cost comparison with other area cities, as well as cities comparable to Fayetteville in population. Currently, the City of Winchester charges $14 per month; Pulaski, $9.20; Lewisburg, $12.50; Manchester, $14.51; Huntsville, $14.50; Lawrenceburg, $10.95; Jefferson City, $14; and Jonesborough, $11.50. Tullahoma and Shelbyville both include the cost of garbage collection in their tax rate, according to the comparison.

The proposed increase is on the agenda for the board’s regular meeting this week.

In other discussions during Thursday’s work session, officials discussed the process of hiring a new department head. They anticipate doing that in September when Doug Carver, police chief, retires.

City Administrator Jim Lee said he is considering submitting applications to the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) and letting that agency recommend the top five applications. From there, those five would be interviewed and scored, with the top two or three being called back for second interviews.

After a short discussion on whether city policies and procedures are clear on the matters, officials agreed that generally, the city administrator has oversight responsibilities and is over the hiring process.

“Now it would be my plan to bring my recommendation to the board, and of course, the board can say no,” said Lee.

“I don’t like MTAS’s involvement,” said Alderman Danny Bryant. “The city administrator is responsible for hiring … and if we see he’s pulling favors or something, we can deal with him. It’s not MTAS’s job to pick who works for our city.”

City Mayor John Ed Underwood agreed, saying, “Like the expression, ‘Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow’, the tradition is he hires who he wants, and tomorrow, if we don’t agree, he’ll [Lee] be gone.”

Additionally, the board discussed adopting a new ordinance that brings the city in compliance with state law and sets the maximum charge at $25 plus costs for false emergency alarms not caused by uncontrollable conditions.

The intent of the ordinance, which will be considered during the board’s regular meeting this week, is businesses or homes where false alarms occur to make necessary repairs. Under the proposed ordinance, businesses or individuals could be cited into court if false alarms persist.

“This is about saving taxpayers money,” said Alderman Marty Pepper. “When you roll out those big trucks, you’re talking about some money.”

Officials were also updated on the city’s new procedure relating to the acceptance of credit cards for the payment of property taxes, permits and fee.

Property taxes may already be paid by credit card online, and that has worked well, reported Tonya Steelman, finance director, adding that swipers are being installed currently. An online site for payment of permits and fees is in the process of being built.