Special pick-ups occur in two ways. First, a resident can call and schedule a special pick-up with the City by dialing 311. Second, the City can place an orange sticker on a resident’s excess or improper garbage. If the City returns to find the offending articles still in the alley, the City removes the garbage but levies a special pick-up fee on the property owner.
At the May 9 City Council meeting, aldermen approved an ordinance increasing special pick-up fees from the present $25 to $60 for up to three cubic yards of refuse.
Special pick-up fees appear on a resident’s water bill along with sewer, garbage, and recycling charges. The fee for special pick-ups is added automatically by the solid waste division.
Dave Stoneback, Director of the City’s Public Works Agency, described the issue to City Council in January (reported in the RoundTable Jan. 13). The concern at that meeting centered on “fly dumping,” when unknown parties drop garbage in an alley and an innocent, unsuspecting property owner is then saddled with the special pick-up fee.
At that meeting Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said, “When a resident calls the City to report three mattresses dumped behind my house, they still get charged a special pick up-fee. Why would you assume it was a resident [who dumped the mattresses]?”
Mr. Stoneback responded that it is difficult to prove the origin of dumped materials. The staff memo for the May 9 meeting reported, “The fees for special pick-up requests during 2015 totaled $91,500. This is higher than the previous two years, because staff was more aggressive in charging a special request pick-up even when there was a claim of fly dumping.” Charging special pick-up fees to property owners even when they reported fly dumping resulted in an increase of $6,000 to $11,500 according to the memo.
“People who fly dump, they find their spots. … Fly dumping is real,” said Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, speaking in January. “Residents have to pick up the costs, and it’s very unfair.”
The staff memo states, “If staff doesn’t charge for fly dumping requests,” the result would be about 10% less revenue collected. The ordinance itself, however, does not address fly dumping at all.
The New Ordinance
The initial $60 fee applies to the first three cubic yards of garbage collected. Mr. Stoneback has described three cubic yards as about the size of the average sofa, or queen sized mattress and box springs. The City will charge $10 for each additional cubic yard beyond the first three.
While nothing in the ordinance requires City staff to remove special pick-up charges when fly dumping is reported, Council clearly indicated they wanted staff to do so.
The June 1 increase may be just the beginning. According to the staff memo, “Based on staff’s analysis, the special pick-up fee would need to be increased to $60 per cubic yard, with a three- cubic yard minimum, in order to fully recover the costs associated with the service. This would result in a minimum special pick-up fee of $180. However, it is staffs’ opinion that this is too significant of an increase and therefore proposes” the increase to $60.
“Staff anticipates that this will increase the revenue for providing this service to $216,000” per year. Based on last year’s $91,000 revenue figure, it appears the City plans to continue to charge the fee even when fly dumping is reported, since the $216,000 figure is 240% of $90,000.
The increased fee goes into effect June 1, so residents are cautioned to watch carefully for the City’s orange stickers and report garbage placed in the alley by others.