The Platteville Common Council instituted a $60-per-household garbage fee late last year to take half of garbage collection costs off property taxes.
The next service for which fees will be charged may be collection of brush.
The Common Council Feb. 12 discussed charging for brush collection as well as reducing brush collections in the city.
The proposal the council is considering would reduce brush pickup from 14 per year to 10 per year. It would also assess a $25 fee for collecting brush.
“The reality here is we’re talking 140 man-hours; it’s not enough to reduce a position,” said city Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot. “What we’d be doing is reallocating those 140 man-hours for other tasks.”
While reducing brush collection would save wear and tear on the city’s wood chipper, as well as save transportation costs, Crofoot said charging for brush collection would lead to an increase in clerical costs to bill residences for brush collection.
Crofoot added that with a fee, “the likelihood is a person with a small pile of sticks will decide not to put that out or find another way to dispose of it.”
“Adding a fee, I don’t think there’s going to be much cost savings at all,” said District 3 Ald. Barb Daus.
“I don’t think there’s a need for it,” said District 2 Ald. Eileen Nickels, adding that splitting the city for brush collection, similar to collecting garbage in half the city Mondays and the other half Tuesdays, “makes more sense.”
To that, Common Council President Mike Dalecki said, “Where’s your plan for solving our problem for not having enough dollars for capital?”
“We’re talking about brush pickup, Mike,” replied Nickels, calling brush pickup “one of the things that keeps the city looking nice, and I think including it in your taxes is not unreasonable.”
“As long as you change the incentive structure, you change behavior,” said Dalecki. “When you put a fee on it, you’re going to find a whole lot of people who won’t need the service.”
“It’s working great,” said Nickels.
“It costs money,” said Dalecki. “Let’s get on a path where we’re not constantly performing services.”
District 1 Ald. Ken Kilian proposed the city “offer the service and not charging a fee to do it as infrequently as possible for a year. Maybe less than 10” times.
“This seems to me to be upside down,” said Daus. “How do we encourage, how do we lead with how can you help the city? You can help by taking your own stuff to the compost site. … Otherwise it looks like we’re nickel-and-diming people.”
“We have got to reduce our labor costs and devote that money to capital, and that is part of the process,” said Dalecki.
The council will consider the brush collection fee at one of its March meetings.