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Refuse fee memo opens can of worms

A staff budget memo designed to justify the proposed increase in Evanston's sanitation fee has opened up the question of how much more Evanstonians pay for trash hauling than residents of other towns do.

A staff budget memo designed to justify the proposed increase in Evanston's sanitation fee has opened up the question of how much more Evanstonians pay for trash hauling than residents of other towns do.

The memo presented at Saturday's budget workshop showed that some other communities charge a higher fee for trash collection than the $5 a month proposed by the city manager.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said that was like "comparing apples to coconuts," because the other communities are served by private haulers.

Those charges, she suggested, probably represent the entire cost of the trash-hauling service, while Evanston's fee is designed to only cover a quarter of the cost, with the rest coming from general tax revenue.

City Manager Julia Carroll and Public Works Director David Jennings were unable to provide an immediate answer to the question of whether the other communities use tax revenue to subsidize the trash hauling fee.

The $15.80 rate in Oak Park, for example, would represent a 20 percent savings over the estimated total cost of Evanston's service, if it is not supplemented with tax funds.

Ms. Carroll has estimated that Evanston's sanitation costs are about 11 percent higher than those in neighboring communities, and she's pledged to develop a plan to reduce those costs over the next year.

Ald. Rainey also suggested that the city simply stop collecting yard waste to eliminate the $498,000 cost of that seasonal service.

"We have to have garbage pickup. We have to have recycling, because it saves money by reducing the solid waste stream," she said.

"We don't have to have yard waste collection. People can compost it — leave it where it is," she added, "Tell people there are six private companies out there they can contract with if they just have to have their yard waste taken away. Feel free. But I don't think the city should spend money on this."

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