By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – City officials are touting its customer service and low cost of solid waste services as city council moves closer to adopting a monthly fee.
A new phased-in garbage fee, which would help pay for a range of pickup services, received its first vote of support from Warsaw City Council Monday, May 3.
Beginning in July, residential customers and apartment dwellers living in units of four or less would begin paying an $8 monthly fee that will increase annually until it reaches $12 a month in 2025.
The plan appears headed for passage with some city council members calling it a great deal compared to what other communities pay or what the private sector offers.
The city provides weekly garbage pickup, bi-weekly recycling pickup, weekly yard waste pickup, large-item removal as well as loose leaf collection in the fall.
The city estimates the cost of providing the services to be about $915,000 annually. Thirteen years ago, that cost was about $735,000.
There were 3,906 trash pickups in 2008, but that’s grown to almost 4,600 pickups in 2020, according to info provided by the city.
But limits on how much the city can collect, as a result of the state’s circuit breaking law, have led the city to start looking for other ways to pay for the cost of the services
In 2007, before circuit breakers kicked in, 80 percent of the budget was funded with property taxes. In 2021, it’s 56 percent.
“Property tax revenues are just not keeping up with the demand for service,” said Mayor Joe Thallemer.
New revenues from the fee would only cover about half of that in the first year.
Also part of the plan is a prohibition of plastic bags used for yard waste.
Dillon estimated the department receives upward of 15,000 plastic bags that then have to be split open to remove yard waste.
To make that easier, the city is offering each household up to five paper bags.
Residents can pick up free paper bags at the street department. Or route drivers can drop off bags if people call ahead.
Placing yard waste into bins will still be permissible, Dillon said.
Council members sounded appreciative of the existing service. No council members spoke against the proposal.
“It’s a start. It will stop some of the hemorrhaging from the general fund,” said councilmember Michael Klondaris.
“For all of those services, quite frankly, it’s a steal,” councilman Josh Finch said of the fee.
Council held a public hearing on the issue. Nobody from the public spoke or texted concerns or support for the plan.
A final vote could happen when the council meets on May 17.
Dillon said they’re trying to provide high-quality customer service and willingness to go the extra mile when called upon.
“We’re not out to work against you. Give us a heads up and what’s going on and we’re here to help you any way we can.”