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Fee hike for trash pickup weighed: Council considers two increase that would push total to $13.47 per month

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Get ready to pay more for trash pickup and leaf and limb service if you live in Greenwood, where city utility rates have been on the rise in recent years.

The city is considering raising trash rates by about 22 percent over the next two years. Residents currently pay $10.97 a month to get their trash taken away, to have leaves hauled off their curbs in the fall and to have city workers pick up downed or trimmed tree limbs year-round.

Greenwood is looking at raising that rate by $1.25 next year and by another $1.25 in 2014. After the increases, residents would end up paying $13.47 a month for trash service.

Overall, the monthly fees for city-run utilities will have nearly doubled since 2009 if the latest rate hikes are approved. In total, the recent, forthcoming and proposed utility rate increases will take more than $21.50 extra per month on average out of Greenwood residents’ pockets.

City residents would pay an average of $258 more per year in fees for city-run utilities than they did three years ago, if all the rate hikes take effect.

The rate increases will come up for preliminary approval at the city council’s meeting on Nov. 19. The council has approved three utility bill increases this year — two for sewer service and one for a new stormwater utility, which costs residents $5 a month.

Greenwood wants to raise trash rates because the current monthly fee does not cover the cost of services, and the city doesn’t want to cut or scale back leaf and limb pickup, controller Adam Stone said.

The city is making trash service into a separate utility with its own bank account, Stone said. Waste management had been part of the city’s sewer utility, which has been struggling financially in recent years until a recent series of rate hikes.

Greenwood last raised trash fees three years ago. The city then raised sewer rates in 2010 and again early this year and will raise them for a third time in January.

Since 2009, residents have had to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for utility bills. A typical household would pay an average of $21.51 more per month for city trash, sewer and stormwater service than three years ago, if the latest rate hikes are approved.

Greenwood households that use 5,000 gallons of water a month had paid the city about $24 a month for sewer and trash fees in 2009. Those same households will pay more than $45 a month for sewer, trash and stormwater fees in 2014 under the latest proposal.

City council member Bruce Armstrong asked if the city could consider dropping leaf and limb pickup as an alternative to raising rates. Other council members told him that leaf and limb pickup were the city’s most popular services and the ones they heard the most compliments about.

Greenwood wants to be able to continue to provide those services without charging user fees, Stone said.

Currently, the city hires Best Way Disposal to pick up trash, and has its street department workers pick up limbs and leaves that residents leave out on their curbs. The trash company has agreed to charge the same rate over the next two years, but the fees the city charges don’t cover the cost of paying city employees to collect leaves and limbs, Stone said.

Residents likely would have to pay more for trash pickup if they hired companies themselves, city council member Linda Gibson said. Trash trucks also would come through neighborhoods several days a week because residents would hire different companies with different schedules.

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