By Sue Botos
The study is over and the numbers have been crunched. The outcome, according to city officials, could add up to a fee of about $10 monthly for “backyard trash collection.”
At Monday’s City Council session, Mayor Pam Bobst announced that the results of a trash collection cost survey have been compiled into a 250-page document. According to the findings, trash collectors make a total of 6,677 weekly stops throughout the city, with 95 percent of these being single-family homes. In addition, 243 multifamily residences, 88 commercial buildings and 16 institutional stops, such as schools, are serviced. Bobst noted that commercial and institutional buildings sometimes receive multiple weekly collections.
Bobst continued that after salaries and other operating expenses are factored in, each stop, which uses golf-cart-like scooters to transfer trash to a packer truck about $20.21 per month.
In addition to calculating the fee for single-family homes, Bobst said the information gathered will be used to re-evaluate the city’s practice of picking up refuse from apartment buildings, condominiums and commercial properties. “This is being reconsidered. It’s very unusual for a city to do so,” she stated.
Councilman at Large Brian Sindelar questioned why the city picks up commercial refuse, and Bobst explained that this is due to the 1-mill property tax that is dedicated to refuse collection. Annually, this tax amounts to $680,000. This number, in addition to an infusion of about $500,000 from the general fund, is not enough to keep backyard collection functioning, according to city officials. The proposed $10, which would be tacked on to monthly sewer bills, is estimated to raise approximately $800,000.
The decision to charge a fee for trash removal came on the heels of voter rejection, in November, of a tax increase that would have hiked the city income tax from 1.5 percent to 2 percent. While city officials stressed the $2 million expected to have been raised by the tax hike would not have been used to fund trash pickup, it would have freed up dollars for the program.
Although Rocky River is one of the few suburbs, and the only one on Cleveland’s West Side, to still employ this trash pickup system, many residents have made it clear that they will do whatever it takes to keep the scooters on the street and industrial-looking trash bins off of their tree lawns. During a May 2012 public meeting to inform residents of the cost of the present program and offer alternatives, a representative from Republic Services Waste Management was literally booed from the podium.
Privatization of rubbish collection, according to information provided by the city, would save millions in the long run, resulting in little or no cost to residents. Bobst has emphasized that no service workers will lose his or her job if the city switches to a private trash hauler. She said they will be reassigned to other duties, and the equipment repurposed.
Should the monthly trash fee be put in place, Bobst said that the program will be re-evaluated after two years, and that City Council could discontinue it at any time.