City garbage bills to go down briefly

Published 7:56 am Wednesday, April 29, 2009

FRANKLIN–Garbage collection fees will zigzag for the next few months, as the city tries to sort out issuing credits to households in the wake of lower-than-anticipated tipping fees from the Southeastern Public Service Authority.

The City Council voted Monday to immediately reduce residential garbage bills from $44.18 per month to $32, the rate residents paid before the council raised rates in February in anticipation of a SPSA tipping fee of $245 per ton. However, residents should expect their garbage bills to go back up – to $46.36 monthly – in July.

The $245 tipping fee never materialized, thanks largely to a cooperative effort among the eight municipalities served by SPSA, including Franklin, to guarantee their share of the agency’s restructured debt with the Virginia Resources Authority.

SPSA last week enacted a $170 tipping fee but also decided not to make the fee retroactive to Feb. 1.

“It looks like this will be the tipping fee not only for the rest of this year but also for all of next year,” said Barry Cheatham, a member of the SPSA board who represents Ward 1 on the City Council. “The budget that is being presented right now (for fiscal 2010) through SPSA is based on the $170 tipping fee.”

Since the tipping fee was lower than expected, and the hike was not made retroactive, the city will have credits to issue some households in the near future.

City Manager June Fleming said the city has billed households about $71,265 since the $44.18 rate took effect in February.

“We do not know as to how much of that we will collect,” Fleming said, adding that the amount of money collected so far “will give us sufficient funds to address what is going to be needed” through April, May and June. She said the city could have an excess of about $8,000 at the end of the fiscal year.

“Based on the numbers that I have been given, (since February) it looks like the citizens have been billed enough to cover the tipping fee for the rest of the (fiscal) year,” Cheatham said.

On the issue of credits, Cheatham said “hopefully within the next few months we’ll know exactly how much has been collected, at which time we’re going to start talking about which is the best way to refund the money, through either a refund or a credit, depending on the situation. More than likely it to be a credit for those who are still living here.”

Fleming said the city would issue credits, not refunds.

“The way the council passed the resolution is very clear,” she said. “They only gave permission to (issue) credit.”

The $46.36 rate for monthly garbage pickup is expected to come down after SPSA sells its waste-to-energy incinerator in Portsmouth. Cheatham said negotiations to sell the facility to a private company are continuing and a sale could happen later this year. That would likely mean a substantial reduction in SPSA’s tipping fee.