By Terry Rogers
At the regular meeting of Milford City Council on Monday, January 11, council members discussed issues that had come to light regarding the City’s solid waste ordinance. The discussion was related to citizen and business concerns regarding the policy over the holiday.
“Last year, council passed measures that took effect in October,” said City Manager, Hans Medlarz. “The theory was that the people generating the most waste should bear the burden of paying for that waste. In theory, it was a great plan, but in practice it may not be working.” The changes to the ordinance that Mr. Medlarz referred to were adjustments made in early 2014. Solid waste employees were instructed to no longer pick up trash that was not inside waste containers, requiring residents and businesses to place all items inside the container for pick up.
According to Mayor Bryan Shupe, during the holiday when solid waste customers experienced a higher solid waste volume than normal, due to large cardboard boxes, wrapping paper as well as remnants from large holiday dinners or parties, it was difficult for families to fit all the waste into the waste container. With some packaging too large to break down to fit into the containers, such as big screen television or large children’s toys, these items are often placed next to the container for pick up and, in previous years, solid waste employees took the items. Since the change to the ordinance this year, crews left any waste outside the can behind.
“Our crews did exactly what they were told to do,” Mayor Shupe said. “However, because the items were left behind, they ended up in the street or blocking sidewalks. When people called to complain, we explained the policy, telling people that the items needed to be in the waste can. Some residents either didn’t want to pick up the trash or were unable to do so, which meant the solid waste remained on the street, creating litter and making our city look less attractive. It actually ended up being sort of a stand-off between the city and some residents, which is something we definitely didn’t intend.”
Mr. Medlarz said that residents and businesses are supposed to contact the city prior to placing large items that will not fit in the containers to arrange for pickup, but for some reason, the message was not getting to citizens. The city started billing for additional pick up charges based on the new ordinance adopted in 2014. A review of those bills showed that those charges totaled approximately $1,250, but that there were dozens of invoices in small amounts.
“We are billing residents for the extra pickups, but in amounts like $10, $15, $20,” Mr. Medlarz explained. “It is actually costing us more in administrative costs to send these bills than we are collecting.” Mr. Medlarz offered a compromise that would resolve both the left-behind trash and the costs of additional bills.
A new ordinance would allow solid waste crews to pick up all trash left at the curb, whether it was in the waste can or next to it. If a solid waste customer occasionally places extra trash for pick up, there will be no additional cost imposed and crews will take the items. However, customers who habitually have more trash than the can will hold will be issued a mandatory second container for waste and will be billed accordingly.
“We could offer a deeply discounted price for the second can as it will be placed where a pick up is already occurring,” Mr. Medlarz said. “We could also look into the cost differences by offering various size cans as a second container to meet the needs of customers.” Mr. Medlarz said that requiring those who routinely generate more trash to pay for a second can would accomplish the original goal of the ordinance change which was to be sure those generating the most trash were paying for the service, rather than an overall rate increase that could negatively impact those who were not generating as much solid waste.
In other solid waste news, Mr. Medlarz proposed that solid waste fees be removed from the electric bills and transferred to water/sewer bills. Currently, there are a significant number of renters in Milford and the majority of renters pay electric bills. However, water and sewer bills are sent to the property owner.
“We have a few customers who are strategically paying their electric bills,” Mr. Medlarz said. “They pay the electric portion only and never pay the trash portion. Because we have no way of monitoring who has paid their trash bill and who has not, service continues as long as the electric portion is paid. By adding the costs to the water and sewer bills, the property owner will be responsible for payment, not the tenant.”
New changes to the ordinance will be presented to council at the next meeting, on Monday, January 26 at City Hall at 7pm, for further discussion.