Baton Rouge Mayor’s Office warns of cuts in trash, recycling services if Metro Council balks at approving $1 fee increase _lowres

Advocate file photo by VICKI FERSTEL -- Republic truck picks up garbage on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, on Woodlore Drive in East Baton Rouge Parish.

The East Baton Rouge Mayor-President’s Office is voicing concerns that the Metro Council might block a $1 a month fee increase related to garbage pickup and recycling and is warning that doing so would result in service reductions.

The Metro Council is expected to vote on the fee increase at its meeting on Wednesday. The fee increase was factored into trash collection and recycling contracts the council approved in August.

The council voted at the time to renew the current garbage collection contract until 2018 but modified the recycling contract so it could continue to process glass. The administration had previously proposed cutting glass recycling services to hold down costs. But council members and other members of the public pushed to keep glass in the recycling package.

The administration told the council at the time it approved the contracts that monthly payments would need to be raised from $19 to $20 a month to cover the cost of the services. The fee has not previously been raised in eight years.

But despite approving the contracts, some council members expressed resistance the following month when they were asked to separately vote for the fee increase. The fee increase was almost rejected, with five council members voting against the measure. Council members Trae Welch, Chauna Banks-Daniel, Donna Collins-Lewis, C. Denise Marcelle and John Delgado all voted against the fee increase. But all of them except for Delgado also previously voted in favor of the contract renewals at the previous meeting.

The item was deferred until Wednesday’s meeting.

William Daniel, chief administrative officer for the city-parish, said if the council doesn’t want to increase fees, the administration will have to cut services. He said it could likely come in the form of the recycling program.

“People don’t think that it’s optional here, but in reality, it is optional,” he said of the recycling service.

In a letter to the Metro Council, Daniel pointed out that the parish Plan of Government requires that residents pay the full cost of garbage services.

“If the monthly fee remains at $19, the cost of the services in the contracts previously approved by the Council will exceed the user fees by $2.8 million by the end of 2017,” the letter reads. “Since it would not be the recommendation of the Administration, nor will time allow for a property tax election, the only option to avoid a deficit in the program is to reduce services.”

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow City Hall Buzz blog at http://blogs.the advocate.com/cityhallbuzz.