By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – City Council gave final approval Monday, May, 17, for plans to establish a trash fee and provide a mid-year hike in pay for police.
Both measures passed 7-0.
The trash fee, which will begin showing up on wastewater bills in July, will initially charge $8 per month and increase annually by a dollar until it reaches $12 in 2025.
The fee will help cover about half of the $915,000 it costs the city to provide trash service, yard waste and large item pickups for residential customers.
While reluctant to establish a new fee, council members contend that it is far less than what residents would pay through a contracted service.
Council members said they like that the fee will be phased in rather than starting out at the $12 rate. They also contend that the city service is superior and far cheaper than what residents could find through a private firm.
“I would challenge anyone to find a company to pick up your trash, yard waste and large items for $8 per month,” said Councilman Jerry Frush, who was one of three on a committee that studied the issue. “If you can find someone to do this, I would suggest you opt-out.”
Some council members have called the $8 fee a bargain.
“This, I think is probably the best solution out there,” said Councilman Mike Klondaris.
Two council members said they received emailed complaints about the hike. The only person to speak against it was a property owner who has numerous duplexes that already contract privately for trash removal. She suggested the fact that she pays taxes that are used to cover the cost of trash removal, but sees no benefit in return.
The pay hike for police – a rare move in the middle of a year – gained a sense of urgency after officials realized pay levels were – in some instances – far below other nearby police departments.
The move is aimed at helping recruit new officers and retain existing staff.
Council approved a plan that would boost base pay for all officers by 10 percent. That means entry-level officers will see a 10 percent hike in pay, while officers with larger salaries will see smaller bumps in pay.
The city’s human resources department and a three-person wage committee based the proposal on data collected from nearby towns.
Mayor Joe Thallemer pledged to continue looking at wages for all departments.
“At this point, it was a critical time to make the adjustment,” Thallemer said.
In one case, Thallemer said, a neighboring town’s difference in pay was $10,000. He said he knows of one officer who left WPD for that department.
The increase will be good for the community, according to Councilman Jeff Grose.
“This is a step in the right direction,” Grose said.
Councilman Jack Wilhite said he was glad the city is working to be more competitive,
“You get what you pay for. This is a good step up,” Wilhite said.
The city police department has been trying to fill vacancies in its force for several years.
The increase in pay will cost the city about $200,000 annually. The added expense for this year will be covered with money that would have otherwise been used to cover the cost of several positions that are unfilled.