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Public Outcry Tempers City Council’s Enthusiasm for New Trash Fee

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Columbus Indiana Mayor Fred Armstrong is backpedaling slightly after a strong negative reaction from city residents to a proposal to add an 18 dollar “user fee” for trash pickup at every household in the city.

Officials in Columbus are hoping to pad the city’s 2010 budget, which faces a $4 million deficit, by charging residents a user free for city trash pickup. Carl Good attended a Thursday meeting on the topic and says representing the charge as a user fee is misleading.

“If it’s a user fee then it should be at true user fee because on any other utility or user fee you only pay for what you actually use so it shouldn’t be a flat rate for everybody,” Good said. “It just seems that they haven’t looked at the over-all cost structure before they figured out what the user fee needed to be.”

Mayor Fred Armstrong said Good and others are right – admitting the user fee is another tax the city can use. But Columbus public safety director Jim Norris said he hopes to find ways to cut costs so residents won’t be charged as much.

“We provide a lot of services that we’re not going to be providing in the future,” Norris said. “It won’t be $18 a month. We don’t know what its going to be.”

Armstrong said he hopes to find a way to combine residents suggestions such as a volume based “pay as you throw” program but he’d only consider outsourcing trash pickup to a private company as a last resort, noting it would save the city money but eliminate the jobs of some sanitation workers.

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