WEIRTON - A 14-cent-per-day rate hike is in the works for garbage service.
At Monday's meeting, Weirton City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance increasing customer rates.
"It's something that should have been done years ago," Ward 4 Councilman George Ash said. "We keep taking more and more money out of the general fund - last year, I think it was $117,000 - to subsidize sanitation."
City officials have said the sanitation department has been operating in the red since 2010. A committee had been researching the feasibility of turning responsibility over to a private carrier, but Finance Director Tom Maher said they'd not been able to obtain an actual quote. Maher, however, said they had been told by one carrier that the fee would be at least the $14.75 per month Fairmont residents pay.
Weirton residents are billed $18.80 every other month. Garbage fees currently amount to $9.40 per month.
The rate hike, which still must pass its second reading, would up the rates by 96-cents per week.
Maher said that would get the department back on solid financial footing and also address personnel and equipment costs.
"That's less than 14 cents a day to get us up to the standard we need to be at," Ash said.
Ward 5 Councilman George Gaughenbaugh said the rate hike "is way past due, we can't sustain" taking money from the city's general fund revenues to plug holes in the sanitation budget.
"It's been 13 years," Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel added. "It's something that needs to be looked at oftener than that. Think what the price of fuel was 13 years ago."
In other business, Mayor George Kondik cast the tie-breaking vote on an intergovernmental agreement that will allow the City of New Cumberland to use the street sweeper for a day. A similar request had been made last year, but council refused.
If New Cumberland's council signs off on the plan, they'd cover the driver's salary plus costs associated with the usage.
Kondik said he felt it was important to help another community out.
"My opinion, I have no problem doing it," he said.
But Ash questioned the wisdom of taking the equipment outside city limits, particularly when it breaks down frequently and there's so much need here in Weirton.
"I don't want to send it to another city when we need it here," he said, adding, "I can't see doing it, it's wasting taxpayer money."
Gaughenbaugh pointed out that any outside work would have to be done on a day when the street sweeper wasn't scheduled to be cleaning streets in Weirton.
Ash, Weigel and Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh voted against lending the equipment to another municipality; voting in favor were Gaughenbaugh, Ward 1 Councilman Ron Jones and Ward 2 Councilman Chuck Wright.
Gaughenbaugh joined Weigel, Marsh and Ash in defeating a resolution which would have authorized the city to apply for $200,000 in grant money through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to acquire a "live burn trailer" for training purposes.
"It's a trailer you can burn," Marsh said. "Just because money is available doesn't mean you should apply for it. I would rather see them apply for (grant money) for a fire truck or radios."
First readings also were heard for ordinances:
Declaring garbage, rubbish, filth, debris, high grass, weeds, noxious weeds and rank vegetation, hazardous trees, shrubs and plants a public nuisance.
Solicitor Vince Gurrera said he thinks the ordinance is a good one, but suggested "the fines need to be higher."
Purchased new light bars and mobile radios for the police department
Establishing a mutual aid agreement with the Hancock County Office of Emergency Services, and entering into an agreement for the Hancock-Brooke-Weirton Drug & Violent Crime Task Force.
Authorizing application for funding for air packs for the fire department.
Council also signed off on the second and final reading of legislation requesting parking in front of Trinity Lutheran Church be handicapped only on Sundays, as well as authorizing crews to paint a 40-foot yellow line on the north side of Powers Road beginning at the curb and extending to 129 Powers Road.
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)