The Billings City Council is considering increasing residential garbage collection rates by more than $2 per month beginning July 1.
The current monthly rate is $7.77 per month; under a proposal developed by a rate study conducted by the city’s Public Works Department, the charge would be $9.78 per month with the start of the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Council members discussed the proposal Monday during a work session and will hold a public hearing on the matter in April.
Jennifer Duray, finance manager for the Public Works Department, told the council the increases are needed to help cover a variety of cost increases, including fuel costs (up 8 percent annually), maintenance (4 percent) and property insurance (10 percent). An additional $50,000 is needed in the 2014-15 budget to purchase containers, $93,000 for two additional landfill maintenance workers, $100,000 additional for closure and post-closure costs at the landfill and $150,000 to privatize a household hazardous waste contract.
In addition, the Phase 6 expansion at the landfill planned to begin in about seven years is expected to cost $15 million.
Even with the increase, Kalispell is the only comparable community with lower collections rate -- $111 annually, compared with the $117.36 proposed for Billings residents. Helena charges its residents $186.34 annually; Bozeman, which has opened a new landfill, charges $276 annually. Missoula had the highest annual rate, at $312.
“Part of our low cost is that we own the landfill, and the distance to haul to the landfill is less,” said Dave Mumford, Billings public works director.
Under the proposal, landfill tipping fees will increase for Billings residents by $1.43 per ton, from $14.76 to $16.19. Residents who live outside Billings but still in Montana would pay $19.52 per ton in tipping fees.
The Public Works Department is considering allowing out-of-state haulers to take trash to the landfill. Their tipping fee would be $26 per ton. Of that total, $2.58 per ton would go into the city’s general fund.
“Our landfill is a great asset,” Mumford said. “It’s a place where the city council can look to pick up some extra money for the general fund.”
Otto Goldbach, with Two Tough Guys Services, a private hauler in Cody, Wyo., told the council his company would appreciate the city opening the local landfill to out-of-state haulers who must pay much higher tipping fees elsewhere.
“I’d like to take some of my business here,” he told the council. “The price offset would make that feasible.”
Duray said she’s heard from several out-of-state communities asking “Will you take our waste?”
“It’s still a good deal for them, not to have to build a landfill,” said Councilman Denis Pitman.
Councilman Rich McFadden seemed reassured when he learned that the landfill has enough land and options to be in operation for at least the next 70-80 years.
“I’ll check back with you then,” he joked to Mumford.
“This is an opportunity to be prepared for a $15 million investment in the landfill,” Councilwoman Becky Bird said. “We are a growing city and we have services that people not only need, but demand. The reality is it costs money to provide those services. I prefer not to kick the can down the road.”
The city council gave Mumford the OK to work with Downtown Billings to place privately financed statues downtown and, perhaps down the road, along other Billings streets. The project as it now stands will begin along Broadway and eventually could include locating art inside roundabouts.
“Is it safe to put art in a roundabout?” McFadden asked. “People might get kind of distracted driving around those.”
Mumford assured him East Coast and European cities have art within their roundabouts with no deleterious effects.
Public Works employees would help locate and secure the statues. The idea is based on a successful public art project in Sheridan, Wyo.
“We think this is a good program that would bring more tourists and give people something to remember about Billings,” Mumford said, adding Monday’s was “a very preliminary discussion.”
Council members asked Parks and Recreation officials for more information on proposed fee increases for, among other things, the new speed slide at the Rose Park pool, as well as possible increases in admission there and at the South Park pool.
They’ll consider the increases during an April meeting.