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Gainesville trash service may soon cost more
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Keeping Gainesville residents’ trash service as it is will most likely mean higher costs in the coming year.

But no one can say yet how much that increase might be.

While city officials try to discern what to do with the future of the city’s trash service, budget plans for the solid waste division are to keep the service the same in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“For budgeting purposes, we are assuming that we’re just continuing our status quo — the twice-a-week backdoor service — through another budget cycle,” said Gainesville’s Public Works Director David Dockery.

City officials have for years been searching for ways to make the department operate independently of city tax dollars.

Last month, the City Council considered changing the service to a once-weekly curbside service.

But after residents protested, the City Council opted instead for an eight-week study of once-weekly backdoor service and also said it would consider privatization.

The eight-week study is in its second week. City officials plan to hold public meetings in late July to share results with residents.

But before that time comes, the City Council will have to approve a spending plan for all city-run departments.

Dockery said if there was any change to the city’s trash service, it would likely not come before the beginning of fiscal 2011.

Without the help of tax revenues for the service, Dockery’s proposal to the council Thursday included balancing the solid waste division’s budget with $137,546 of the solid waste division’s reserves.

The division’s reserve fund currently holds $243,441. City officials had hoped to use that money to pay for any changes they make to the city’s trash service, Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard said.

“You’re kind of digging into the money that we would have to allow us to transition to another type if we wanted to,” Sheppard said. “So that’s some of the pitfalls we just want you to be aware of.”

Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan then questioned whether the city should go up on trash fees to keep from using the division’s reserves. Gainesville Administrative Services Director Melody Marlowe said it could mean a $2 monthly increase on residents’ trash bills, but an official close to the division later said the number might be higher.

“There’s six months into the budget that we’re going to be sucking wind and using everything we’ve got in reserves,” Dunagan said. “I’d support raising fees for the six months, July to December, and see where we go.”

Mayor Ruth Bruner agreed.

“If (residents) want us to be thorough and look at all the options and do a good job and come back with the best plan for the future — I think the people want us to do that — then I think we don’t want to deplete our reserves to do that,” Bruner said.

Dockery said he would re-evaluate the cost and bring a new proposal to the council.

“We’ll look at it,” Dockery said.

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