Garbage increase leads to more bickering

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Finger pointing over the $68 increase in solid waste and recycling bills continued at Washington City Council Monday night.


The exchange was mostly between Mayor Brenda Davis and Councilman Matt Staniszewski, neither of whom voted for the rate increase.


The rate increase, from $175 a year to $243, led resident Cliff Cochran to attend council’s agenda meeting to seek an explanation.


A check of other municipalities shows their costs are less. The yearly fee is $195 for Canonsburg; $148 in Cecil; $208 in North Strabane; and $204 in Peters Township.


While council’s first job is keeping residents safe, Cochran added, “and the next thing should be not passing on any extra money. I think it could have been handled better.”


The city’s new three-year solid waste contract is $140,000 higher than the previous one.


Staniszewski believes he is being targeted to cover up the fact that council is “double dipping on positions paid for by the taxpayers and has been gouging residents for years.”


The solid waste account includes $100,000 in administrative costs which includes overhead costs Staniszewski said are already paid by the taxpayers.


That had been the practice before she was elected, Davis said. In fact, administrative costs were added following a recommendation to stave off city bankruptcy by the Early Intervention Program of the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development.


In its 2007 report, the EIP recommended the city review its fee and charge structure to insure all overhead costs were included. It also recommended the city begin immediately and aggressively to collect those fees.


The EIP report also recommended the city register all rental units and set a fee that would cover overhead costs. This program is underway.


Another problem in the city’s solid waste costs involves its database on the number of residential units where trash should be collected.


While Waste Management maintains there are 5,108 units, the city believes the figure is closer to 4,300. The 2010 Census reports there were 6,692 homes in the city.


The fire department is currently working on updating the city’s database on residential units.


Both Davis and Staniszewski agree the trash increase is penalizing people who have paid their bills.


“The law-abiding taxpayers should not have foot the bill (for the increase),” Staniszewski said.


“Maybe you should have looked into it before,” Davis shot back.


Davis said she is hopeful that if a surplus is collected this year, the money can be returned to taxpayers.


City residents have until the end of the year to pay their solid waste bills although penalty fees will be added. They also can choose to come in and pay something on the bill on a regular basis throughout the year.


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