Update: Trash Fee Hike in Columbus Denied

By Lindsey Connell - bio | e-mail

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Muscogee County residents haven't seen a hike in their trash pick-up fee since 2001. But a new study done by the City Manager's Office shows Columbus is falling short when it comes to funds for trash pick-up and disposal.

Now council is considering how much more residents will have to pay for their pick-up and how often they'll receive the service.

Officials say the city cannot continue to function under the current $14 a month rate.

"We are falling short of meeting ongoing personnel costs, operating costs, equipment costs, construction costs, and closure and post closure costs," said City Manager Isaiah Hughley.

That's why the City Manager's office is presenting the results of a trash rate study to the mayor and council and presenting them with three options to consider.

The first option is that the city continues with its current twice a week pick-up at a cost of $19 a month-a five dollar increase.

Option #2 is once a week pick-up at a cost of $17.25 per month.

And option #3 is a winter/summer pick-up. For $18 a month, citizens would have their garbage collected once a week in the winter and twice a week in the summer when trash tends to smell worse.

Officials are also recommending a mandatory recycling program be implemented in Columbus by 2012. These changes, they say, are all about preparing for the future.

"We are going to have to close a number of landfills and if we aren't reserving the monies today to take care of closure and post closure costs, when that day comes, we are going to leave those expenses for our children and grandchildren," Hughley added.

In a meeting before city council tonight, the City Manager's Office recommended the first option to the mayor and council. They'll consider the rate hike and if all goes according to plan, a first reading on the changes and a public hearing will be held in council on February 10th and a 2nd reading will take place February 24th.

Any changes adopted will go into effect on July 1, 2009.

UPDATE: The Mayor and Council have decided not to increase the fee for trash pick-up.

A study conducted by the City Manager's Office showed Columbus in the red when it comes to money needed to close landfills and purchase new equipment.

But council members feel now is not a good time to raise fees due to the state of the economy.

"They simply said now is not the time with the state of the economy, with the recession, with foreclosures- let's wait and revisit this. I think they acknowledge that we will definitely have to revisit this. I think it was a good decision to show compassion," said Isaiah Hughley, City Manager.

Hughley says from an operating standpoint, the city is meeting costs for the Integrated Waste Fund, but falling short on capital expenditures.