City talking trash, literally

January 3, 2013

Washington City Council has contracted with Waste Management to haul away trash for the next three years at a cost of $2 million, but a number of troubling questions remain. How will the city come up with the $145,884 increase agreed to? On which days will recyclables be picked up? Will they be picked up once or twice a month? And, how many residents are actually paying the $175 annual fee charged for garbage removal?

There seems to be some confusion about the reason for the increase. Councilman Matt Staniszewski said Monday that most of the additional cost can be blamed on the addition of a second recycling collection each month. Council tabled the recycling portion when it approved the agreement with Waste Management, and it intends to seek other bids.

The city is required to provide a recycling program. The second collection day is not mandatory but is something the council believes will be a convenience. Most likely it would be, but residents should not be surprised when they are asked to pay more for it.

It should be noted that, compared to many others in the county, Washington residents are getting a bargain on trash pickup. In some less populated municipalities, where recycling isn’t required or offered, the charge for waste hauling is nearly twice as much.

Washington could afford its new agreement by charging households about $34 more each year. But there may be a better way to handle the increase.

Waste Management claims it picks up trash from 5,108 households, but council believes the number is closer to 4,300. Is that because only 4,300 households are paying the $175 fee? If so, about 800 freeloaders are having their trash hauled, as well. If the city were to collect the fee from them, it would have an extra $140,000 in revenue, which would be enough to absorb the increase without raising residents’ rates.

That’s something for City Council to think about.


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