Free bulk trash service could return

Published 11:44 pm Friday, October 16, 2009

City leaders have proposed that $2 million of an estimated $3.5 million surplus be used to give bonuses to those employees who helped generate the cost savings, reinstate free bulk trash collection and add a special police team to the northern part of the city.

City Council members will consider the proposal during their regular meeting on Wednesday. The proposal is listed as part of the consent agenda, a group of items council members typically vote on without discussion unless they pull the items for separate consideration.

City Council found out last month that an audit shows an estimated surplus of about $3.5 million for fiscal year 2009. The extra money was the result of cost savings throughout the city, leaders have said.

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The proposal to use $2 million of the money has $1 million going to unnamed city employees and council appointees in the form of one-time bonuses. The employees will be those “who assisted in generating this cost savings and producing such a surplus in a challenging economy experiencing revenue declines,” according to a staff report.

An additional $550,000 of the money will be used to reinstate free bulk trash collection for piles measuring eight cubic yards or less. The city began charging between $20 and $50, depending on the size of the pile, on July 1 to close a hole in the budget. The new fees have been met with resistance by residents.

Another $432,730 will be used to create a second Neighborhood Enforcement Team to mitigate gang activity in North Suffolk. Police Chief Thomas Bennett told council members during their retreat last month that gang activity had increased in the northern area, in part because of gang members from Newport News and Portsmouth using the easy access to that area to recruit and for other activities. He told the council he hoped for another team to be up and running “by the first of the year.” The current team has been doing some proactive policing in North Suffolk, Bennett said, but risked losing the headway it had made in the downtown area by splitting too much of its time.

The remainder of the surplus, about $1.5 million, would go toward the city’s general fund for unforeseen and emergency needs, the report says.