City Council votes to raise garbage rates
by Ron Harris
Nov 06, 2013 | 1259 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jasper City Council members voted to raise garbage fees in the city for the first time since beginning to charge for the service in 2001.

The monthly residential fee will go from $8 a month to $12 a month.

For businesses, the monthly fee will go from $20 to $25.

The increase will go into effect with the Jan. 2014 billing cycle.

The rise in the fee was necessitated by the financial loss the city has incurred from the service over the past several years.

Council president Gary Cowen said the city lost more than $350,000 last year, and losses could top $450,000 over the next year.

“Theoretically, the proper way would have been to go up a small amount every couple of years. But, we looked at it and tried to be the most effificent we could. When the recession hit in 2008, we realized we were losing money each year, but at that time we knew that every penny counts in everybody’s pocket,” Cowen said. “But when we got looking at the losses, it was just too much.”

The average cost across the state for garbage pickup is $14.51 a month, council member Jennifer Williams Smith said during the meeting, and does not include all services that Jasper offers, including removing leaves and debris left along the roadside.

“We looked across the state at the level of services, and we looked at what they were charging,” Cowen said, “and we felt the best we could do is give Cadillac services for Yugo prices, or in other words, some of the top services for the lowest prices.”

Cowen said the city has been approached by private firms interested in taking over the city’s garbage service, but that would entail even costlier services without added benefits the city now offers.

“Yes, I agree that it’s a 50 percent increase in price, but I would rather do that at one time than nickel and dime everybody during a recession,” Cowen said.

The rate hike passed 4-1, with council member Jed Daniel voting against it.

“We didn’t charge for this service in 2001, and the problem I have with the garbage rate hike is that if we knew that we were losing money for the past five years, we should have rectified that before we levied an additional 1-cent tax on the public,” Daniel said following the meeting. “If we had that big a shortfall, we should have fixed that first, especially before raising the sales tax.”

In other business, the council:

•approved the minutes of the Oct. 15 council meeting.

•approved issuing a parade permit for Saturday’s annual Veterans Day parade in downtown Jasper. The parade is set to begin at 10 a.m.

The council also approved a request to hold the county’s annual Christmas parade sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

•approved a Restaurant Retail Liquor license for Light’s House located at 305 U.S. 78 West. The business passed all requirements that fall under the city’s guidelines for receiving an alcohol permit.

•approved travel expenses for police personnel traveling to training classes Nov. 7-8 in Florence.

•approved a request to purchase a used police vehicle using funds from the city’s Special Police Revenue Fund. The Ford Crown Victoria was previously owned by the city of Hoover.

•approved raising the city’s business license issuance fee from $10 to $12. The measure passed 4-1, with Daniel voting against it.

The $12 issuance fee will be in effect for the next five years.

•adopted a resolution to set costs for nuisance abatement concerning two properties.

The council then adopted a resolution regarding three other properties that fall under the nuisance abatement ordinance.

•approved a request to rezone several parcels of land on 14th Avenue West, 23rd Street West and 24th Street West from R-2 (Single Family Residential) to R-3 (Affordable Housing) in order for manufactured housing to be allowed on the property.

The rezoning request was met with opposition from Mike Fikes, who lives in the area affected and opposed the council’s decision to rezone the property.

•adopted a resolution to rezone property at 709 19th Street East from R-2 to B-T (Transition Business) in order to develop an office building.

•approved a request to allow the Curry SGA to hold a 5K run on Nov. 23 at the North Jasper Park beginning at 8 a.m.