Proposed trash fees compared

Published 11:55 pm Friday, September 25, 2009

If an early estimate of a trash fee Suffolk residents could face holds up, they will be paying one of the lowest fees in Hampton Roads.

Suffolk City Council members on Wednesday discussed a possible monthly fee for trash removal. An early estimate puts the fee at $14 a month, or $168 per year.

The fee could begin as early as July 2010, but no decisions have been made yet.

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Though Suffolk does not pay to dump its trash at the Southeastern Public Service Authority landfill, council members are concerned they may have to begin paying soon. On Wednesday, the SPSA board of directors voted to consider a proposal from ReEnergy Holdings, which offers to buy the entire authority for $243 million. ReEnergy has said it will charge equal fees to all communities, including Suffolk, to dump trash at the landfill if it purchases the authority. Suffolk would receive a host fee for the landfill, but ReEnergy has not given any indication if that fee would balance out the tipping fee.

Council members said that charging residents for trash pickup is unavoidable.

“I think at some point it’s going to be inevitable,” Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson said during a break in the council’s retreat Thursday.

Other cities in the area currently pay between zero and $40 per month for trash service, including bulk pickup and recycling services. Virginia Beach still charges its residents nothing for disposing of their trash. At the other end of the spectrum, Portsmouth charges a monthly fee of $40.72 for regular garbage and bulk waste, which doesn’t include recycling.

Norfolk charges about $28 per month for all three services.

Virginia Beach considered adding a fee in the last budget cycle, but wound up nixing it.

The $14 monthly charge would cover the estimated $5.4 million annual cost for regular garbage, bulk and curbside recycling, Public Works director Eric Nielsen said Thursday.

Currently, the $3.8-million cost for regular garbage pickup and bulk disposal is paid for out of the general fund, which is financed by property taxes. Council members said the money could be diverted to other expenses if a fee is instituted.

City residents currently do not get curbside recycling services, but the city recently came to an agreement with Tidewater Fibre Corporation Recycling to provide curbside recycling for residents for about $12 a month. At least 2,500 residents must sign up before the service will be provided. A link to sign-up will be posted on the city’s Web site when it becomes available. If more people sign up, the price will go down.

Council members made no decisions on the various trash issues at the retreat. Any proposal to begin charging for trash pickup would be made as a part of the regular budget process.