ELIZABETHTON — One of the most requested and talked about services may be returning to the city of Elizabethton.
The City Council voted 6-1 Thursday night to reinstate bulk refuse pickup at curbside for city residents. The motion will require one more successful vote in September before the service begins.
The council was scheduled to vote on a change that would have provided the bulk refuse service twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, but when the proposal was brought up for discussion, Councilman William Carter immediately made a motion to return the service to the way it was prior to Feb. 1, 2010, when city sanitation workers would pick up bulk refuge, such as broken stoves, refrigerators, water tanks, washing machines, furniture, automobile parts, mattresses and bedsprings, furnaces and other similar bulky materials. Councilman Richard Tester immediately seconded Carter’s motion.
Carter said he proposed to go back to the way thing used to be because so many of his constituents had pleaded for the change. Mayor Curt Alexander said it was also the most common request he had heard from citizens. He said part of the reason was the citizens felt the service had been taken away and they had to start paying the household waste collection fee at the same time. He said the citizens saw their costs going up at the same time services went down.
Only Councilman Charles LaPorte voted against the motion. He asked where funding would come from to reinstate the service.
Councilwoman Nancy Alsup said she would not vote for any more taxes or fees on the citizens. LaPorte said reinstating the service without the funds to pay for it was a form of hidden tax because some other service to the citizens would be cut.
Street and Sanitation Director Danny Hilbert said the service would cost $65,000 per year.
LaPorte said the staff was already stretched thin. Hilbert said he was using his sanitation crews for other jobs in addition to trash collection and the department was short one person because a position was cut during the budget constraints the city had two years ago.
Finance Director Jerome Kitchens said the funds for the added service should not come from the sanitation fund because the fee had been just enough to pay for household waste collection. He said if the costs were put in sanitation “we would almost have to raise the rates next year.” He said a better alternative was to take it from the budget for the streets.
LaPorte asked his fellow council members if the streets were in good enough shape to take another $60,000 out.
Tester said the $60,000 amounted to 3 cents on the property tax rate, and it would be a recurring cost.
The council asked Kitchens and City Manager Fred Edens to provide a funding recommendation before the second and final vote on the service’s reinstatement. Alexander also said there will not be a clear picture of costs for two or three months after the services begin.
In other matters, the Elizabethton Water and Wastewater Division was recognized for receiving the 2012 Tennessee-Kentucky Water Environment Association Operational Excellence Award for the fifth consecutive year.
The council also approved the purchase after the fact of two tracts of land from Thyrone and Linda Powell as part of the new water transmission line from Hampton Spring to Elizabethton. Tester was the only dissenting vote.