Clinton At large City Councilman John Rowland will a host a forum Saturday to gather public input on the city’s solid waste billing quandary. The event will begin at Christ Episcopal Church at 9 a.m.

In a statement released Monday, Rowland asks for guidance from community members as the city mulls potential ways to make up a projected $600,000 solid waste fund deficit.

A “tip” fee, a per-usage charge that was to be assessed as part of the new automated trash pickup system, will likely never be implemented as planned.

Rowland said that cancelling the previously used sticker system in favor of an unproven automated system so quickly was a mistake.

“I’m amazed, simply amazed, that they quit the orange sticker system without verifying the new system works,” Rowland said, adding that this decision is directly responsible for the current deficit. “We’d have revenue right this minute. We wouldn’t be in this problem.”

As months have passed without the city collecting the usage fees, which would have been $1.25 per tip of the trash cart, Finance Director Jessica Kinser said the city needs to consider alternate ways to collect revenue.

At the March 13 meeting of the Committee of the Whole, Kinser presented three possible scenarios in which a flat fee is added to the monthly charge. These scenarios would add monthly charges ranging from $2.90 to $6.17 based on cart sizes and frequency of trash pickup.

The scenarios also call for additional charges to help cover future capital costs.

The Committee of the Whole decided against taking action on the measure, but scheduled a special meeting of the City Services Committee to consider these and other alternatives further.

Rowland said that the information gathered from his surveys and at the public forum would help him make a decision at the March 27 meeting of the City Services Committee.

“I want to get feedback from the members of the community,” Rowland said. “I think it’s just (good) community relations to develop those things, get input from the people.”

The deficit continues to mount, Rowland said, and action needs to be taken quickly. However, he said that the city should be cautious about adopting a new fee structure without carefully considering the needs and wishes of the community.

“I want it to be a good solution,” Rowland said. “Something that is doable for the community.”

Attendees will be given the opportunity to complete a nine-question survey that asks which, if any, of the proposed billing scenarios is the best. The survey also asks whether Mayor Mark Vulich, the City Council and City Administrator Jeff Horne have effectively handled the issue.

At the March 13 meeting of the Committee of the Whole, Rowland said that Horne, as city administrator, should have prevented the billing issue from lasting as long as it has.

“I want some answers,” Rowland said at the time. “We’re entitled to them.”

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