- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—SOUTH BEND — The Common Council tabled discussion of a proposed trash fee hike Monday in order to consider alternative options, including the sale of ad space on trash bins.

As proposed, the fee would increase 96 cents per month on Sept. 1 and another 96 cents on Jan. 1 in order to cover rising removal and disposal costs.

The alternatives presented Monday included an option to contract with a Michigan-based company to sell advertising on the 40,000 or so bins the city uses to collect trash.

National Cart Marketing would pay the city $165,000 per year for the opportunity to sell ads on the lids of the bins for a period of five years.

The company would cover all costs associated with the service, Public Works Director Eric Horvath said, and be limited in the types of ads it could display.

The additional revenue would allow for a reduced rate increase of 53 cents per month next year, saving customers about $3.63 per year compared with the current proposal.

National Cart Marketing currently works with Moline, Ill., Lafayette, Ind., and Three Oaks, Mich., and is in talks with Muncie, Ind., Horvath said.

Moline also sells ads on its trash trucks, he said.

“It’s not very widespread,” Horvath said of the service. “It’s a fairly new program.”

At the same time, the city could eliminate yard waste pickup or extend the leases on its trash trucks for additional savings, Horvath said.

Both options would save customers between $5 and $23 per year compared with the current proposal.

That said, extending the leases on the trash trucks could result in the leases outlasting the trucks themselves, Horvath said.

A fourth option, Horvath said, would be to spread the fee increase out over three years at 78 cents per year.

Doing so would lessen the annual burden on customers but result in a larger overall increase of $2.34 per month, he said.

The proposed fee hike is meant to shore up the solid waste fund, which has taken a hit in recent years because of rising removal and disposal costs.

Notably, the city is in the process of replacing all of its old trash trucks with new compressed natural gas trucks at a cost of about $350,000 per vehicle.

As of March, the fund contained about $330,000, down from $1.2 million in 2011 and well below the recommended minimum of $1.1 million.

“We’ve got a declining cash balance, and it’s going to continue to decline … unless we either raise rates or drastically cut costs,” Horvath said.

Unfortunately, he said, most solid waste costs, such as wages and benefits, vehicle leases, tipping fees and fuel costs, are set.

Council member David Varner, for his part, found “interesting” the idea that the city could avoid a fee hike by eliminating yard waste pickup.

“Why do we pick up green grass and weed clippings … and then put them in another pile?” the Utilities Committee chair said. “Most of that can be solved with composting on-site.”

As for selling ads on trash bins, “I certainly give (the city) credit for being open to that, because it makes perfect sense,” he said.

The council also tabled a proposed companion ordinance Monday that would have required residents to place yard waste in city-approved containers.

Both ordinances will be discussed in committee at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 13, with separate public hearings to follow at 7 p.m. Aug. 24.

In other business Monday, the council tabled indefinitely a proposal to lower the deductible for sewer insurance work from $500 to $250.

The proposals also would provide for the in-kind replacement of related landscape, sprinkler and hard surface improvements up to $1,000.

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