On Wednesday, Warren City Council will be voting on a sanitation rate increase for the residents.
In 2011, the Warren Environmental Services Department collected almost 24,000 tons of garbage. This sanitation department consists of 13 hourly employees who do a tremendous job through rain, sleet or snow long before your mail arrives each work day. The department also includes its director and secretary who perform the daily administrative tasks.
The department's mission statement reads, in part: ''To preserve and maintain constantly evolving service using improving technology and innovation.'' City Ordinance 927.10 gives the department the sole and exclusive right to collect residential garbage in Warren.
The granting of this monopoly through ordinance comes with the responsibility of ensuring our residents receive superior service at a competitive price.
As council members, it is our responsibility to investigate alternatives to a rate increase. There are various options to reduce, not raise our sanitation costs.
We can reduce our garbage tonnage through recycling. I recently toured Greenstar Recycling in Pittsburgh. The facility can process 150 tons of recycled trash per hour.
Greenstar is building another recycling facility closer to us in Akron.
In past contract negotiations, the city of Warren has stated that voluntary recycling is superior to curbside recycling. However, Warren's recycling habits contradict that point.
Warren presently has three recycling locations - downtown behind the Trumbull County Administration Building, the Parkman Road fire station and the Christ Episcopal Church on Atlantic Street N.E.
These three sites combined to collect 88 tons of recyclables in 2011. That number represents less than one half of one percent of our total yearly garbage tonnage.
I have also recently toured an efficient transfer station near Chardon in Geauga County operated by Universal Disposal. The facility is state of the art and should be looked at prior to council deciding on a rate increase.
Currently, Warren Sanitation collects commercial and residential garbage and transports it to Environmental Transfer System Inc. (ETSI), located on Martin Luther King Boulevard. S.W. ETSI is a privately owned corporation that charges Warren $42.48 per ton in tipping fees. The 2012 city budget request for landfill costs is a little more than $1 million.
I feel that investigating the operating of our own transfer station and encouraging curbside recycling could reduce our costs and would reduce the city's overall landfill tonnage which ultimately reduces our annual landfill fees.
On Wednesday, City Council will hear third reading of an amended ordinance that would raise sanitation rates by $1.50 per month. This proposal would make your monthly sanitation bill $15.85. This figure represents an increase of a little more than 10 percent.
City residents have dealt with recent increases in their wastewater (27 percent) and water bills. The suggested water rate increases would be incremental - 12 percent, 10 percent, 6 percent and 6 percent - over the next four years.
The increases out of our residents' pocketbooks must be weighed against a median family annual income of $36,158, according to the latest census figures provided for the city of Warren..
In contrast, Niles residents have paid $10.31 per month for garbage collection over the past three years, and their city recently signed a two-year extension under the same terms.
Girard residents pay $9.98 per month, while Lordstown pays $13.75.
Local townships' monthly sanitation rates range from $13.98 in Weathersfield to $15.43 and $15.95 in Liberty and Howland respectively.
It should be noted that all of the aforementioned townships have free curbside recycling, where with minimal effort you can reduce your sanitation bill to zero.
This legislation was initiated under the original premise of a $1 increase to buy a new $230,000 automated sanitation truck every two years. Raising residential rates $1 per month for our more than 14,000 customers would generate approximately $175,000 per year or $350,000 every two years.
This original request to raise sanitation rates by $1 per month would allow sufficient revenue for overhead and maintenance and the purchase of a new truck.
In my estimation, a $1.50 increase is not necessary.
Brown is the 3rd Ward councilman in the city of Warren.