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Keokuk Alderman Strongly Opposes Possible Garbage Rate Hike

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The Keokuk City Council used part of Thursday night’s workshop to talk about possibly increasing the garbage rate over the next two fiscal years. The discussion, though, evolved into whether the city kept its word about how it would use money from a previous increase.

City Administrator Aaron Burnett told aldermen the city’s current garbage rate ($18/month) is not keeping up with expenses. He said that is a problem because the city needs to replace two garbage trucks and several other sanitation department vehicles in the next four years.

So Burnett is proposing a $1/month increase on July 1, 2017 and another $1/month increase on July 1, 2018. He said the more than $60,000 in new money could be used to help pay for the new garbage trucks, which could cost $250,000 each.

“We do not want to get caught off-guard by such a large expense,” said Burnett. “We are not recommending a vote on this next month, but rather we need to start these discussions early instead of waiting until budget time.”

Alderman Ron Payne immediately voiced his opposition to the proposed increases, citing a previous $1/month increase that took effect July 1, 2014.

Payne said he was under the impression that the money collected from that 2014 increase would be used to help offset the cost to residents if they need to replace their garbage bins due to normal wear and tear. But he said that has not happened, leaving residents on the hook for the expense.

“I totally disagree with the citizens having to pay when that piece of equipment that was forced on them wears out,” said Payne. “Now if they wear it out, if they destroy it, that’s another story.”

Public Works Director Mark Bousselot says the city will repair the trash bins, if possible, by replacing the wheels or the axle and sell used bins at a discounted rate. But he said city code requires residents to be responsible for purchasing a new bin, which Payne said also needs to be changed.

Payne said he would not support another increase without knowing how every dollar would be spent.

“What I am not going to do is tell the citizens one thing and then have [us] sit around the table [and say] no, this is not what we are going to do, this is what we are going to do,” said Payne. “I want us to be as honest as we can.”

Alderman Roger Bryant said the money from the 2014 increase was needed elsewhere in the Sanitation Department. He said citizens were not lied to about how the money was used.

No formal action was taken on the proposal Thursday night.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.