Toledo City Council's arduous debate over the city's monthly refuse fee dragged on yesterday with no resolution in sight.
A somewhat hostile crowd of about 30 people - some of whom shouted catcalls - attended council's committee-of-the-whole meeting and more than a dozen people testified about their displeasure over the $5.50 monthly garbage fee and an alternative to charge even more.
Walt Madanski, of Mason Street in East Toledo, was among those who criticized the city over a litany of issues. They included charging the current trash fee, considering a higher fee, and planning to switch to automated garbage pickup.
Others said they simply could not afford a bump in their monthly expenses.
The trash fee could be settled today if council reaches a majority decision before it votes to approve the 2008 general operating fund budget, which is set for a vote at today's council meeting.
The budget assumes $4.8 million will be collected through the end of the year from the trash fee.
But Councilman Joe McNamara said there is not support for the Finkbeiner administration's plan to keep the current monthly charge intact.
"I do not see seven votes for it as of right now and I seriously doubt this body would let a tie happen," Mr. McNamara said.
A tie would be broken by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who has urged council to renew the current fee.
Council has at least three options before it, each of which is meant to balance the budget. They are:
•Renew and continue the current $5.50 monthly fee program that offers a $2 discount for those who recycle.
•Approve a plan created by council members D. Michael Collins and Mr. McNamara to charge a $10 monthly fee for people who don't recycle at the curbside and nothing for those who do.
It's been suggested to phase that option in over three years - increasing the fee each year until the $10 is reached.
•Eliminate the fee altogether and achieve $3.2 million in savings for May through December by making other cuts and taking money from the city's capital improvement budget, which is approved separately.
Bob Sturek, of Larchwood Lane in South Toledo, said the need for a trash fee should be offset by last week's announcement that the city would use more than $1.1 million from an "uncashed-check fund" and 50 percent of a $982,000 surplus from 2007 to help balance the 2008 budget.
"There is no transparency," Mr. Sturek charged. "We don't have confidence."
A large contingent from East Toledo's Cypress Point mobile home park at 2510 Consaul St. said the current fee is unfair because they are charged the $5.50 by the park's operator but cannot get the discount even if they recycle.
Mayor Finkbeiner yesterday said the current fee is the best option.
"Until someone presents me with a better alternative, taking everything into consideration, I remain of the opinion that you are wise to stay with that which is working," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
Bill Franklin, the city's director of public service, said the $10/nothing plan would create a "huge influx" of recycling, which he said the city's current fleet of trucks could not handle.
Councilman Frank Szollosi yesterday presented a revised plan he has for eliminating the city's reliance on a trash fee.
It includes lowering the city's retirement incentive age, rolling back overtime costs, asking employees to pick up more retirement benefits costs, and diverting $1.35 million from the city's capital improvement budget.
"There is money in the CIP budget that I would rather go toward eliminating the garbage tax," Mr. Szollosi said. "I would not want to take money from roads, but there is money for things like a new bulldozer, a traffic signalization program, and a dog park that could be pushed to 2009."
Mr. Finkbeiner said pursuing a plan to eliminate the fee is irresponsible.
The current fee will expire April 30 unless council renews it.
It was unclear yesterday if council would vote on a garbage fee before it approves the 2008 general fund budget or if it could take that vote after the budget is approved.
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