City of Loudon considers implementation of monthly garbage fees
Vicky Newman-News-Herald
The City of Loudon is looking at the possibility of implementing garbage collection fees to offset the cost of sanitation services now funded entirely by the city's general fund.

Sharon Rollins, a public works/engineering consultant for the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) met with commissioners Monday to report on a sanitation fees study undertaken by the service at the request of Mayor Judy Keller.

The fees are intended to supplement the  service, which is expected to face capital budget expenses of more than half a million dollars in the not-distant future.

"This may be a difficult topic, but a couple months ago the mayor asked me to look at the sanitation, and provide some suggestions for a fee," Rollins said. "When I looked, I was blown away at the level of services you provide. Hardly any cities left provide twice-a-week garbage service, and of the few that do, not many do it from general funds. I commend you. But now, you have equipment that's getting old and worn out. You're going to need machinery, and you're looking ahead, with this report."

Rollins said sanitation may be funded several ways. "It can come from the general fund (tax revenues), from fees or a combination of both. We did a comprehensive study in 2000, and it was a broken down about one-third-one-third, one-third in the way cities funded sanitation. Now, everybody is looking for ways to generate funds. I understood your situation. Right now, from the general fund, you had $470,000 budgeted for sanitation services."

Upcoming equipment needs, and estimated costs, include:
In 2013, a 40-cubic yard front loader, $230,000;
In 2014, a 20 cubic yard. rear loader with tippers, $130,000;
In 2015,  20 cubic yard. rear loader with tippers, $131,000; and
In 2014, bulk containers, 4,6, and 8 cubic yards, $20,000.

Although many cities in Tennessee do not charge residential pickup fees, most do charge commercial, Rollins said. The city could consider a fee for either or both. Rollins said Loudon has 1,850 residential customers, served with twice-weekly curbside pickup, and 116 commercial customers, with 144 bulk containers emptied once, twice or thrice weekly. The council could consider adopting residential fees or reducing pickup to once a week. A residential fee of $6 per month would generate more than $133,000 a year; and $7 per month, more than $155,000 a year.

A commercial sanitation fee schedule recommended includes:
Once a week -8 yards, $74; 6 yards, $60; 4 yards, $46;
Twice a week -8 yards, $130; 6 yards, $108;  yards, $80;
Three times a week - 8 yards, $186; 6 yards, $183; 4 yards, $112.

Rollins said commercial customers accustomed to free service may reduce the number of containers and frequency of service. If implemented at current service level, the fees could be expected to generate $176,000.

"What we're proposing is less than other cities; the rates would be very competitive, with the private sector," Rollins said.

Lynn Mills, city manager, said the council will need to look at many issues before deciding on implementation, such as how the fee is billed and whether property owners or renters would be responsible.

"There are endless alternatives," Rollins said.

Any fee program would require months to implement and get up and running, Rollins said. She recommended communicating the plan to the public.

Keller said some means for keeping equipment up-to-date and functioning properly is a must.

"Having your director worrying every day about whether the garbage will be picked up or not is no way to run a public works department," Keller said.