SIERRA VISTA — A proposal to raise refuse service fees in order to place the city’s Refuse Enterprise Fund back in the black was tabled temporarily Thursday after one Sierra Vista Council member voiced concern that the plan was too vague and some residents might not be able to afford the increases.
The proposal will be revisited at the city council’s next meeting on Sept. 26.
For now, Councilwoman Carolyn Umphrey, who asked that the issue be placed on hold, is hoping to get a clearer explanation of how the proposed fee increase will give the Refuse Enterprise Fund a jump start.
At the council’s work session Tuesday, Public Works Director Sharon Flissar told the panel that the city was losing about $150,000 a year in operational costs for the refuse services provided. Flissar said the fees would be increased only for people who use the city’s refuse services.
Those services include the use of residential dumpsters, compost fees and special pick-ups for yard and non-yard waste. She said the revenues garnered by the current fee schedule are not enough to sustain the financial needs of the Refuse Enterprise Fund.
“The fee increases would make up the loss,” Flissar told council members on Tuesday.
But that’s where Umphrey wants more clarification. She also said that some of those who use the refuse services might not be able to afford the proposed fee hikes.
In fiscal year 2019 for example, the city did not charge a pull fee for dumpster rentals. The pull fee includes delivery of the dumpster, rental, pickup and disposal of the waste. In fiscal year 2020 though, a resident who rents a 3-cubic-yard dumpster will have to shell out $153.24 for the entire service.
The fee jumps to $181.64 if a resident rents a 6-cubic-yard dumpster.As far as compost goes,a Flissar said the city’s compost is so cheap that people were buying it and reselling it for more money. With the proposed fee schedule, Sierra Vista residents who use refuse services will go from paying nothing to $10 for an inbound fee for compost, and from $15 to $25 for an outbound fee for screened compost.Non-residents would pay $10 instead of the $5 they pay now. Special pickups for non-yard waste will jump from $14.40 to $44.85. Special pickups for yard waste will go from $0 to $44.85 as well.
“It’s such a drastic increase going from $0 to $44.85,” Umphrey said after the council meeting Thursday. “I think people use the refuse service because they may not have a truck to take it to the landfill themselves. They may not be able to afford this.”
“I think this could encourage illegal dumping,” Umphrey added.
Umphrey also mentioned the citywide 15 percent refuse rate increase that residents were hit with last year.
“The people who use the refuse services will now have to pay another increase. I think it’s unfair,” Umphrey said. “I also want to see a better breakdown of how these increases will get us there (in the black.)”
Councilwoman Gwen Calhoun agreed, telling Flissar, “We just want to understand it a little better.”
Flissar said she understands Umphrey’s concerns and will await questions from her and other council members.
In other business at Thursday’s meeting, the city council unanimously passed the following items: a pre-annexation and development agreement between the city and Cochise Roadworks LLC, an agreement between the city and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and acceptance of a grant from the city of Tucson to pay for overtime for a Sierra Vista police officer to participate in the DEA’s Southern Arizona Major Investigative Team.