Residents flood city with calls about trash fee

Published 10:13 pm Monday, August 15, 2011

Three months after City Council set up a new trash fee as part of its budget process for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, many Suffolk property owners have suddenly awakened to the fact that the new fee will soon be a part of their civic duty.

The city has been receiving about 35 calls per day in the last week from residents who say they are just learning about the new refuse enterprise fee, Suffolk officials say.

The $17.50 fee, which covers a new citywide recycling program, trash pickup, preparation for future trash disposal options and other needs, has raised the ire of people who claim they received no advance warning and found out only when their new recycling containers were delivered.

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City officials, however, suggest it would have been very hard for the average property owner to have completely missed getting word about the new fee.

In addition to being discussed at length during several City Council meetings, which are broadcast on television and streamed online, the issue also has been the topic of numerous newspaper articles, has been posted on the city’s and TFC Recycling’s websites, has been announced on the city’s municipal television channel and has been marketed via social media sites, city spokeswoman Debbie George said.

The city also is working on a postcard to mail to citizens to explain the program, George said.

Some taxpayers were angry last week, taking to the city’s Facebook page to express their concerns.

“Don’t want it, mostly because of the sneaky and underhanded way it has been handled,” said user Tracy Lautieri.

User Mark Miller added, “Thanks for letting me know, Suffolk!! Imagine my surprise when I came home and found a new refuse container.”

The new fee will be charged on property tax bills every December and June.

The proposal was first introduced in public at an April 6 City Council meeting. Many who commented at public hearings during the budget process spoke out against the fee.

City leaders say the new fee is needed to help prepare for the eventual end of the Southeastern Public Service Authority, which has allowed free trash dumping for Suffolk because the regional landfill is situated here.

Only $4 of the monthly fee covers the new recycling service, which begins in September. The rest will be used for trash pickup, as well as maintenance such as cutting grass and other post-closure requirements, at the Hosier Road landfill.