The Clinton City Council tonight will consider a resolution that would amend solid waste collection service charges to cover a growing budget deficit caused by last year's switchover from a money-losing sticker system to automated trash pickup that has been rife with problems.

If the resolution is approved, residents would be charged $9.25 per month per residential dwelling unit as well as a solid waste removal flat fee of $5.25 per month, per solid waste container starting May 1.

The revised billing rates would replace the resolution approved in July that would have charged the $9.25 per month as well as a tipping fee for the city approved solid waste container at a cost of $1.25 per tip. Non-customers of the city’s trash pickup service would not be subject to a fee increase under the new language.

Eliminating the tipping fee and the addition of that flat fee is expected to buy time for city officials to sort out a myriad of billing issues that have arisen since the switch to the automated trash pick-up service. Those problems include microchip-embedded trash carts that were delivered to incorrect addresses, scanning hardware on trucks that has proven to be problematic and city billing software that has had to be built from scratch to accommodate the usage-based pay model approved by the City Council when the automated service was adopted.

Since the automated trash pick-up system and billing structure were approved last fall, the city has not collected monthly solid waste charges, outside of the $9.25 waste fee paid by all households throughout the city that helps cover landfill costs. According to City Finance Director Jessica Kinser, as a result of the flawed process, the city had $298,000 in uncollected revenue at the year’s end; by June 30, it is expected to increase to $600,000 if nothing is done. Knowing that, the council last month voted to send the issue to the City Services Committee, which was tasked with coming up with a recommendation to forward onto the Committee of the Whole for consideration. The Committee of the Whole voted unanimously last week to proceed with the plan that will be presented to the council tonight. Council members have pointed out that the new fee should prevent the worsening of the solid waste fund deficit, but is not designed to make up for lost revenue.

The resolution establishing the fee will also set a re-evaluation date of Nov. 1. At large Councilman John Rowland, who authored the new billing resolution, said in March that the intention of his proposal was not to create a permanent fee, but to allow enough time for a long-term fix. If the billing issues are sorted out sooner, City Administrator Jeff Horne said that the City Council could opt to enact a long-term solution sooner.

While Rowland proposed the idea of hiring of a project manager, city officials say that may not be necessary. Some issues can be sorted out by the vendors and city staff, and Horne said some tech-savvy citizens have even volunteered their time and experience.  

Also introduced last week and on the agenda tonight is an ordinance amendment that would create a sticker system for overflowing trash cans. Discussion at the March 27 City Services Committee meeting revealed that several city solid waste customers were overfilling their trash carts.

This amendment would require citizens with overfilled trash cans to purchase a $5 sticker from city hall that would be placed on the excess garbage bags, assuming the bags are placed in or on the carts. Bags left on the ground would not be picked up.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. today at Clinton City Hall with the Committee of the Whole meeting to follow.

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