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Published: Monday, 2/4/2008

Toledo authority to impose trash fee is debated

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
McNamara McNamara
JETTA FRASER/THE TOLEDO BLADE / THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Toledo City Council tomorrow will review a proposal that, if approved, would take the authority to establish the city's monthly refuse fee away from the administration and leave it in council's hands.

Democratic Councilman Joe McNamara plans to introduce an ordinance that would require specific council action to be able to collect a refuse fee past April 30 - when the current $5.50 monthly fee will expire.

"Last year, there was a separate piece of legislation to enact the refuse fee, it was defeated, and it did not look like the votes were there to pass it," Mr. McNamara said. "No specific legislation allowing the administration to enact the refuse fee was passed The authority to collect the refuse fee was passed administratively."

The trash fee was enacted last year as part of the 2007 general operating fund budget. It will expire April 30 unless council renews it.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's proposed 2008 budget depends on $4.8 million to be collected from the trash fee this year.

Mr. McNamara wants to amend a section of the Toledo municipal code regarding the power of the city's director of public service to include "the authority to promulgate a rule under this section shall not include the authority to establish a refuse collection fee after April 30, 2008."

"So, in other words, council is taking away the authority from the administration the right to enact a garbage fee," Mr. McNamara said.

Council President Mark Sobczak, who supports renewing the fee, last night said he was unsure why the legislation is needed.

"I think we need to examine the proposal," Mr. Sobczak said. "We will have to most probably discuss it in committee with the full council."

He said council discussed the trash fee at length as a major part of the 2007 budget. "So I am not so sure it was done without council consent," Mr. Sobczak said.

Brian Schwartz, spokesman for Mayor Finkbeiner, said he had not seen the proposal and could not comment on it specifically.

"The garbage fee raises almost $5 million a year and having already, preliminarily with our budget proposal, met a $10 million deficit, it would be a challenge to find another $4.8 million," Mr. Schwartz said. "If [Mr. McNamara's] goal is to eliminate the garbage fee, he and City Council will be challenged to find another $4.8 million in cuts."

Mr. McNamara said he has been fearful that a taxpayer would file a lawsuit, claiming the refuse fee was enacted illegally.

"If you look at almost all the other fees that we collect, it's in the municipal code," Mr. McNamara said. "I have a major, major problem with a fee that generates $4.8 million a year being enacted administratively and I think that's a massive abdication of our duties."

Recycling pledge cards entitle residents to a discount on the $5.50 monthly trash collection fee.

The fee is charged to single-family homes, duplexes, and apartments of up to four units. Commercial and multifamily apartment complexes are required to contract for private trash hauling.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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