Vero Council raises trash collection rates, keeps general fund transfer

By Lisa ZahnerVERO BEACH — Solid waste collection fees for City of Vero Beach residents will go up by about three percent next month.In the first portion of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, members voted 4-0 (Mayor Sabin Abell was absent) to increase residential solid waste collection rates from the current $13.90 per month to $14.32 per month, which is the same rate charged by the commercial carriers who serve customers in the rest of Indian River County. Councilmember Tom White said he thought City residents receive “a lot of service for $14.32 per month,” pointing out that City customers get two refuse pickups per week, plus Wednesday yard waste pickup and recycling pickup. He noted that some City residents also get side-yard pickup.Solid waste collection rates for commercial customers will rise about 7 percent from $4.75 per cubilc yard to $5.00 per cubic yard. Public Works Director Monte Falls said that, even with the commercial rate increase, the City is still about 17 percent less expensive than business waste collection service provided by Waste Management or Treasure Coast Refuse.The City transfers about 5 percent, or $150,000 annually, into the general fund to subsidize salaries of administrators and City Hall operations. Following a public outcry about the City maintaining this transfer while raising rates, Falls suggested council members look into incorporating solid waste fees into the ad valorem tax instead of having a fee-based program.Several local residents spoke out against the measure, asserting that this latest increase adds to the pile-on effect of recent soaring electric bills and proposed 37 percent increases to water and sewer rates.Joseph Gafanti expressed a general concern that this latest rate increase is a further symptom of the the City’s poor fiscal health.”You must be in worse shape than I thought,” he said. “Any piggy bank in site you’re going to break open to feed your staff and waste my tax dollars.”It was the general consensus of the council that solid waste workers do a good job and that the department makes the most of its available resources. Councilmember Debra Fromang pointed out that the Solid Waste department had taken deep cuts to its budget, which will result in reduced services to customers.”You really cut your budget and as part of cutting your budget you also cut some services that people will complain about,” she said. “I think we will hear from the people about services that were cut.”The new solid waste rates will take effect on Oct. 1.

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