Superior City Council approves monthly garbage fee

Superior residents will begin paying a monthly $7.75 fee for garbage collection in January as the city faces a $1 million deficit next year in its landfill enterprise fund.

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Superior residents will begin paying a monthly $7.75 fee for garbage collection in January as the city faces a $1 million deficit next year in its landfill enterprise fund.

After a shooting down a previous attempt to settle on a fee amount earlier this month, the Superior City Council reached a compromise during a special meeting Tuesday and approved the monthly fee in a 7-3 vote.

Mayor Bruce Hagen said afterward that he was pleased with the council's approval, adding that he didn't believe it was going to happen Tuesday. Hagen said he still believes the fee needs to be $9.75 per month beginning in January, but was willing to compromise with a lesser amount for the first three years.

"I know it's a hard pill to swallow," but a fee is fiscally responsible and better than the city reducing its core services to cover the deficit, he said after the meeting.

Before the council began its discussion, Finance Director Jean Vito said the city would need to consider $700,000 in budget cuts to cover next year's deficit if the council didn't decide on a fee Tuesday.


Most residents attending a forum on the fee on Monday wanted to keep city-run garbage services rather than privatize the operation, even if it meant a new monthly fee, Councilor Graham Garfield reported to the council.

Councilors took residents' concerns about their monthly income into consideration, but the council is considering what is best for the community, Councilor Mike Herrick said.

"It's a difficult time. It's a difficult decision," he said.

The monthly $7.75 fee will stand until January 2019, when the fee will increase to $9.75 per month, according to the approved ordinance.

For households needing a second or third garbage can, a $5 monthly fee will be charged for each container beginning in January. The purpose of the additional fee is to educate residents about recycling because many residents throw everything into several garbage cans and don't recycle, Hagen said. He added that the fee is fiscally responsible.

"That plan creates zero deficits. Zero," he said during the meeting.

The plan would also create a funding reserve for unforeseen costs, such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources raising its tipping fee, the compactor breaking down or anything happening in the city that takes from its contingency fund, he said. He pointed out that the city is also facing costs of closing its landfill in 2022 and purchasing new garbage trucks around the same time.

Superior pays the Wisconsin DNR $1.7 million "for the privilege of putting our garbage into our landfill" and without that cost, the city council wouldn't need to discuss implementing a monthly fee, Hagen said.


Councilor Dennis Dalbec pointed out that the deficit wasn't created by the city councilors or administration.

"This was essentially created by the state of Wisconsin," Dalbec said.
Prior to the council's vote Tuesday, the council also heard presentations by Waste Management advocating to privatize the city's garbage service and from Waste Zero, which partners with cities to implement a pay-as-you-throw system that charges residents per garbage bag rather than garbage can.

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