Trash piling up in Hope

Town council seeking costs on pickup service

HOPE – Hope Town Council members have voted unanimously to request bids to provide mandatory trash service to all town residents.

Council members said Tuesday no date has yet been set on when those bids for a contract will be due. But after they are opened, the council will have 90 days to begin mandatory trash service or drop the issue, town council president Clyde Compton said.

Besides basic service, firms seeking the trash service contract will be asked to quote costs for options such as recycling and large-item pickup, Compton said.

If a bid is accepted, there will likely be a 60- to 90-day wait to allow all the company and residents to prepare for the change.

More than 50 residents — about 20 more than attended a March 7 council work session where the first public hearing was conducted — gathered in the Hauser Jr.-Sr. High auditorium Tuesday for the council’s regular meeting.

A show of hands requested by audience member Ed Stone indicated the majority don’t have private trash service. They are among the 44 percent of the 2,100 Hope residents who choose to dispose of their own refuse, according to statistics from Town Manager J.T. Doane.

Hope resident Linda Bair offered a series of questions to town council members, including whether there would be contract language that forbids town residents from having financial interests in city-wide trash service.

“For people on a fixed income, this is going to be a real issue,” said Bair, who also said she believed the trash problems are largely caused by renters rather than homeowners.

Preliminary cost estimates range from $11 a month for basic trash pickup to $16 a month for additional services, Doane said earlier this month. That’s in contrast to the $18 to $22 a month now being paid for private trash pickup, he said.

Nevertheless, three residents said they worry the town would add administrative fees that would raise costs higher than current prices for private trash service.

“You have no idea what we’re going to charge,” Compton said. “That’s because we don’t have any idea on an exact price until after we get the bids.”

“Once we get a firm bid and submit it to the community, then we can get some firm feedback,” Councilman Ohmer Miller said.

Hope resident Diane Croddy said town officials were trying to make a profit out of an empty municipal building by creating a recycling program.

“You want to charge us, so you guys can make that money,” Croddy said.

If mandatory trash service is approved, fees will be added to the monthly water and sewage bill, Doane told residents.

A resident asked what penalty would be imposed for those who refuse to pay for the mandatory bill.

“It’s on your water bill,” Compton replied. “Think about it.”

A different option to place those fees on property tax statements was dropped due to legal concerns, Doane said.

A number of opponents brought up a separate ordinance passed earlier this month that levies fines of up to $25 a day for those who ignore town requests to remove unsightly trash, debris and unwholesome substances.

Paula Winkler and Debbie Tolbert were among those who urged the council to give that ordinance time to see if it solves the problem.

After Stone accused the council of attempting to rush the ordinance through, Miller emphasized it’s not a done deal.

“Just because we’re putting this out for bid doesn’t mean we’re going to do it,” the councilman said.

Town officials have said the lack of mandatory trash pickup has created a health hazard, resulting in an influx of raccoons, possums and skunks attracted to unattended garbage.

A number of opponents, including Stone and Croddy, said they feel mandatory trash service punishes residents for acts committed by those who aren’t responsible.

But Hope animal control officer Lisa Hughes said as long as some of their neighbors continue to pile up garbage, the problem will continue.

“You’ve got to get rid of the trash all over,” Hughes said. “You can’t get rid of it on Maple Street and not get rid of it on Main Street. Those skunks travel.”

Animal control fees

An influx of wild animals attracted to unattended garbage is a key reason why the Hope Town Council is considering mandatory trash pickup.

In a separate step to address the same problem, the council gave final approval Tuesday to an ordinance that would limit the town’s fee for wild animal removal at $30.

If a Hope resident asked a private firm to do that same task, the cost would be about $200, Hope animal control officer Lisa Hughes said.

Under the new ordinance, that $30 fee is half the amount the town will  charge for removing domestic pets no longer wanted in homes, town manager J.T. Doane said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.