Garbage fees come up short
Monthly fee to increase 50 cents
By Bert Lehman
City residents who participate in the city’s refuse and recycling collection program that started in June will pay more than expected for that service.
The issue was first discussed at the Dec. 11 Clintonville Finance Committee meeting. Clintonville City Administrator Sharon Eveland informed the committee that the refuse and recycling contract with Harter’s Fox Valley Disposal was set up in a way that the city would pay a monthly flat fee per participating household, as well as a tonnage fee based on the amount of refuse that was collected.
Eveland stated the flat fee portion was $7.60, with the tonnage aspect at $35 per ton.
Eveland was not the city administrator at that time. She said in May, former Clintonville City Administrator Chuck Kell received approval to switch to a flat fee of $9.40 per month for residents.
“I have since discovered that a contract amendment was never done,” Eveland said. “So the contract in place is for the tonnage fee.”
Based on the tonnage for this year since the program began, the charges from Harter’s are going to exceed the fees collected from residents in the program by approximately $3,800, Eveland said. That is assuming the average tonnage stays the same for November and December.
She added that Harter’s picks up refuse from a few households outside the city. There are also a few instances of residents of the city of Clintonville contracting directly with Harter’s for refuse and recycling service.
“The situation that we are in is we have to operate under the contract we have in place and our refuse collection fees are going to be short,” Eveland said.
This also means the 2018 fees collected will fall short by approximately $6,500.
Eveland presented two options to the committee to make up the shortfall.
The city could continue to use tonnage as part of the determination of the cost of the refuse service through Harter’s, and assess the shortages for 2017 and 2018 on the 2019 tax bill. She said this would amount to about $8 per household for 2017 and 2018. Under this option the city would increase the refuse and recycling collection fees for 2019.
“By doing it by tonnage we have an unknown variable that we could be high or low,” Eveland said.
Eveland said the other option for 2018 is to move to a flat fee, as was originally proposed. She added that Harter’s insists it never offered the city a flat fee of $9.40, but did offer a flat fee of $10.40.
Eveland said the city cannot find any documentation, other than a summary prepared by Kell, that Harters’ had offered a flat fee of $9.40.
In a memo from Kell to the Clintonville Streets Committee and City Council, dated Jan. 24, 2017, a summary of the four bids the city received for the refuse and recycling collection listed the Harter’s bid as a flat fee of $7.60 per month for each participant, as well as $1.80 per month for disposal costs.
Next to the $1.80 figure, it stated that is based on landfill fees and tonnage. Those two figures equal $9.40. The summary also added $1 per month to the fee if Harter’s was responsible for the billing and collecting, which would be $10.40.
Kell was contacted recently by the city to gather more information.
“My understanding is that it was all verbal, it was all over the phone,” Eveland said. “We are looking for the original bids.
“Even if that bid had $9.40 on it, again, what it comes down to is we don’t have a signed contract in place that says this contract is going to do it for $9.40.”
Harter’s has said it will agree to a flat fee of $9.90, Eveland said. This was after Eveland told Harter’s the city would not agree to a flat fee of $10.40.
Committee member Lance Bagstad, who also uses the refuse service, said he would rather have the shortage billed on the 2019 taxes because he didn’t feel it was right to charge everyone in the city to make up for a shortage caused by an oversight by the city.
“I don’t think that would be an appropriate use of the fund balance based on the fact that we’ve already given people the option of opting out of this. We haven’t made it a city service per se, in terms of something that is funded by all taxpayers,” Bagstad said.
Committee member Jim Supanich agreed. He also asked how Harter’s is determining the tonnage since it is also collecting refuse from residences outside the city.
Eveland said Harter’s is determining the city’s tonnage by basing a percentage of the tonnage to the percentage of city residents on its collection route.
“It’s probably not going to be 100 percent accurate, but in the grand scheme of things it probably is relatively close,” Eveland said.
Supanich said he was also concerned about the city finding out about this issue six months after the start of the service.
“Part of the problem is we are the only municipality that they bill for tonnage,” Eveland said. “… They’re saying that our contract is the only one that they have that they bill the municipality.”
Supanich asked why Clintonville is the only municipality set up that way with Harter’s.
Eveland responded that is the way the contract is set up.
The committee was also informed by Clintonville City Clerk Treasurer Peggy Johnson that when the contract was written, it was estimated that each household would produce 24 pounds of garbage each week. Now that the service is in operation, 26 to 27 pounds is being produced each week per household, on average.
Regarding the $9.40 flat rate, Bagstad said he is sure there is a record of it somewhere.
“It would be hard for me to believe that if the hauler told us $10.40 the first time he’d be amendable to $9.90 now,” Bagstad said. “That in and of itself that the hauler was also aware of the $9.40.”
Supanich said the city doesn’t have any documentation of $9.40, and it has a signed contract stating other numbers.
Eveland added that the contract contains a provision that verbal changes are not valid. All changes must be in writing.
When contacted by the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette, Andy Gayhart, general manager for Harter’s, said when the city of Clintonville requested bids, it asked for the cost of hauling plus tonnage, which he said came to $7.60 per household plus $35 per ton.
The second thing the city asked for was a cost for hauling and tonnage combined, which he said came to $10.40 per household.
“This is on paper and the price we submitted to Clintonville,” Gayhart said in an email to the Tribune-Gazette. “We signed a contract for the first option at $7.60 plus $35 a ton. Somewhere in the process of getting this contract started there were talks to change to a set rate, option two. Somewhere in the process the $10.40 that Harter’s submitted on paper turned into $9.40, which was not done by Harter’s.
“To solve the problem Sharon Eveland and myself had very productive meetings and agreed to settle on $9.90 moving forward.”
He added that an amendment to the contract was never created or signed.
The committee recommended to council to asses the 2017 and 2018 shortage on the 2019 tax bills of current users and move to the flat rate of $9.90 plus a 10 cent administrative fee for a total of $10 for month.
“I still think it’s a good deal for our constituents to have this service, I don’t want to lose perspective of that,” committee member Mike Hankins said. “But this is incredibly sloppy by our (former) part-time city administrator.”
The council approved the committee’s recommendation the next night at the Clintonville City Council meeting.