By Tina Alvey
With a sanitation department that is hemorrhaging money at a rate of $26,000 a year, a 40 percent hike in trash hauling charges is under consideration in Ronceverte.
Doug Hylton, the city’s grant coordinator, presented the startling results of his number-crunching to city council Monday evening, along with a proposal to raise the rates for garbage collection.
Under the proposal, residential rates would rise from the current $2.70 per can fee to $3.78. Increases would also be figured on the basis of tonnage for commercial and bulk customers, some of whom are now paying little more than the amount needed to meet tipping fees at the landfill, according to the figures Hylton compiled.
“I guess you can call me the trash man; I’m the one who raised the rates in 2001,” Hylton told council, referring to the last time the city hiked trash charges.
Saying his research into the sanitation department’s financial situation was prompted by the city’s urgent need for a new garbage truck, Hylton noted the vehicle will cost between $125,000 and $135,000.
With the help of city administrator Reba Mohler, Hylton found that over the past five years, expenses in the department have seen a sharp upturn, with the largest increases in salaries, group insurance premiums and capital outlays for vehicle repairs.
Averaging the costs and income for the most recent three-year period, Hylton bluntly told council, “The city has been losing money on the trash department.”
Even with the proposed rate hike, Ronceverte’s trash hauling service will still be less expensive than Lewisburg’s, Hylton pointed out.
He recommended council conduct the first reading of an ordinance setting the new rate at May’s meeting, with the second reading and public hearing in June. The increase would go into effect in July, and the city could proceed with the purchase — or, more likely, the lease/purchase — of a garbage truck at the outset of the new fiscal year.
While no council member directly addressed Hylton’s proposal, David Smith noted, “Doug and Reba have accomplished a lot.”
Hylton also reported on his progress over the past six months in securing $437,040 in grant money for the city and its agencies from various sources, including the Hollowell Foundation, the Leist Foundation, the Greenbrier County Arts and Recreation Fund and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).
SHPO recently awarded $12,000 to the Ronceverte Historic Landmarks Commission for a restoration study of the historically-significant Shanklin’s Grand Theatre building on Main Street. Hylton said he was able to secure a copy of the structure’s original 1935 interior design schematics from the state archives, which should help guide the restoration effort.
“It was a state-of-the-art building in its time,” Hylton said.
A separate $10,000 grant awarded in support of Ronceverte’s continuing designation as a “Tree City” will go toward the purchase of decorative trees that will be planted along Pocahontas and Greenbrier avenues.
Police Chief J.R. Byer Jr. reported that his department has been stepping up its efforts to encourage property owners to remove trash, old vehicles and other hazards from the premises.
City police have issued 35 letters since the first of the year to owners of properties that are out of compliance with Ronceverte’s maintenance code. Byer said he has also met with Susan Kershner of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and has held discussions with the county Health Department about helping out with enforcement of laws governing such issues as tire dumps.
“We’re working on it,” Byer assured council. “It is a slow process.”
With six full-time officers, the Ronceverte Police Department answered 277 calls for service/investigations and put in 916 man hours during March. Officers arrested 16 people and issued 17 citations, as well as performing 180 building/security checks.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org