Danville explores garbage pickup fee

May 10, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

Danville is one of the few cities in the state that includes garbage pickup as a service to residents and businesses.

Most municipalities charge for that service or leave it up to the residents to hire a private company.

City Manager Darrell Blenniss suggested at a recent budget meeting that commissioners consider a user fee for garbage pickup, and then use the money it now spends on the contract, $560,000 annually, for capital improvements, such as a new police station, city hall or public works garage.

The fee would cost each household $7.50 a month, or $9.50 a month with curbside recycling.

Garbage pickup has long been provided to all Danville residents and some businesses as a service of the city, courtesy of tax dollars. Downtown businesses have a pickup every day. Most other businesses get pickup once a week. Then there are still others who aren't included on the list and must pay for pickup.


How does the city determine who gets free trash pickup and who must pay? There's a seven page list of businesses that have "traditionally been serviced by the city." All the rest must pay or don't have service.

Bluegrass Barber Shop, Whirl-A-Way Drive, has been open for eight years. For six years, owner Jim Carpenter had to haul off his own garbage. Then, two or three years ago he said the city started picking it up.

"I guess they finally realized it was part of the city," he said.

Other businesses, like Brookcove Dry Cleaning and Laundry on Shakertown Road, which has been open for 16 years, has never had its trashed picked up.

The city's contractor, M&M Sanitation, had no list of businesses until Blenniss asked. It then went out and compiled a list of businesses whose trash is picked up.

It includes small and large businesses - doctor's offices, restaurants, retail stores, the Greenleaf shopping center and funeral homes among others.

Blenniss conservatively estimated that the city would be able to recoup $30,000 if it just charged businesses for trash pickup.

Then there are the residents, many whom say the proposed fees amount to new taxes.

The Kentucky League of Cities reports that few cities Danville's size provide trash pickup as a city service.

What about people on fixed incomes?

Jackie Sims, executive director of Gathering Place, said that many senior citizens are on fixed incomes, and garbage fees on top of rising drug costs and food could hurt seniors. She said that many of them don't want curbside recycling.

In Glasgow, seniors and the disabled receive a $4 discount on trash pickup. They pay $6 a month for that service and curbside recycling, and other residents pay $10.

Blenniss has some other suggestions for the service, such as uniform trash containers and volume-based pricing. Residents could choose between 30-. 60- or 90-gallon cans. Those who recycle more, and throw away less, would pay less.

He said he is also looking at how to cut operational expenses, even though the city is doing fine in that department, and won't be cutting services or laying off employees.

On the job for two months, Blenniss is reviewing all the city's expenses to see how it can provide the same services more efficiently. One area he has thought of cutting is employee health insurance.

The city pays 100 percent of health insurance premiums for employees and their families. Traditionally, public jobs have had better benefits, and lower salaries than private-sector jobs, but Blenniss said he believes that will change as the cost of insurance rises. On the other hand, he said, the insurance is a strong recruiting tool and has given the city leverage when looking for employees.

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