The Macon-Bibb County Commission will vote Feb. 7 on moving garbage and recycling collection fees to property tax bills.
The commission’s Committee of the Whole voted 5-2 Tuesday in support of the ordinance that would make the fees an annual payment instead of the current structure of four times a year. The ordinance is aimed at improving efficiencies with billing and increasing the amount of collections.
The county’s garbage fee collections is lagging about 7 to 9 percent behind the property tax collections. Other municipalities where the garbage fees are paid annually saw their collections increase, Tax Commissioner Wade McCord said.
“They say they have proof that the collection rate mirrors the property tax collection rate,” he said.
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The new billing would mean garbage and recycling costs would be assessed to each residential parcel of land instead of users. And whether a property is vacant or not, the owner will still pay collection fees.
“We provide service not just in garbage (collections), but a we also provide yard waste and bulky waste collections,” Solid Waste Director Kevin Barkley said. “So even though the property may not have a tenant it still has the need to cut the grass, rake the leaves, cut the brush and put it out there.”
The ordinance also calls for a cost increase for services. Property owners would pay the same $20 monthly rate over the fist 15 months, but in 2019 the fee would be $264 for the year, or $22 a month. In following years the collection rate would be determined by inflation.
The change in billing will cover the increasing costs for garbage and recycling pick up in the coming years, and help eliminate some of the blight and illegal dumping that occurs around Macon, Barkley said.
The increased revenue could help pay for other solid waste needs.
“We need trucks, the landfill needs new equipment to keep this going and we need a way to have revenue to pay for it,” Barkley said.
Voting in favor of the ordinance Tuesday were Commissioners Joe Allen, Scotty Shepherd, Mallory Jones, Larry Schlesinger and Gary Bechtel. Commissioners Virgil Watkins and Bert Bivins opposed the measure that will now be voted on at next month’s regular commission meeting.
“This will save us a lot of money on the front side, increase our collections,” Bechtel said. “I don’t see any drawbacks.”
A letter will be sent out to property owners informing them of the change in billing if the ordinance is approved.
The commission’s Facilities and Engineering Committee also voted in favor of allowing the solid waste department to develop regulations for garbage collection around downtown.
Barkley said the regulations could reduce some of the problems with overflowing dumpsters and reduce litter, which is not only aesthetically unappealing but also attracting rodents and flies.
Progress is being made on multiple blight projects around Macon, Macon-Bibb blight consultant Cass Hatcher reported at Tuesday’s commission meeting.
There were 56 blighted properties acquired in 2016 and others are coming on board this year. The funding for these projects comes from $10 million in blight bonds.
Among the projects are improvements to the Lynmore Estates neighborhood where 15 structures have been torn down, a Lynmore Avenue park and Hillcrest Park upgrades.
Other blighted improvements will be done at a Kings Park playground and community center, and around Emily Street, West Bond Street, Third Avenue and Culver Street.
The Operations and Finance Committee moved ahead a resolution to spend $140,000 on purchasing new garbage containers.
The commission will vote Feb. 7 on buying 2,874 new 96-gallon containers. Currently, there is about a 1,900 backlog of requests for the containers that have been rolling out since last year.
Macon-Bibb has about 1,500 recycling bins available for residents.
An earlier version of this story contained an error. The garbage fee change would impact residential properties with structures.