Council OKs $1.25 for recycling

In split votes on Monday, the Vandalia City Council approved adding two surcharges to the monthly bills of city water users to help keep two local recycling programs operating. The council, in 5-3 votes, approved a $1 monthly surcharge to support the recycling program operated by FAYCO Enterprises and a 25-cent surcharge for the Fayette County Soil and Water Conservation District’s electronics recycling program. Aldermen Andy Lester, Russ Stunkel, B. John Clark, Ken Hubler and Mike Hobler voted for each of the surcharges, and Dorothy Crawford, Steve Barker and Joel Rebbe voted against them. The surcharge will go into effect later this month, after the ordinances are published as legal notices in The Leader-Union. FAYCO will continue to accept recyclable items such as magazines, newspapers, cardboard, plastic, and steel and aluminum cans at 2022 Wagner St., and the SWCD office will continue to accept electronic items such as televisions and computers on Wednesday afternoons at its office at Third and Johnson streets in Vandalia. There is currently no fee to drop off recyclable items at the FAYCO facility, but the SWCD office does charge $5 per load for electronics being recycled. Once the surcharge goes into effect, city residents providing proof of residence in the city will not have to pay that $5 charge, while others will. The surcharges were recommended during a meeting of the council’s cemetery and landfill meeting in April. Also suggested at that meeting was a survey of city water customers. In that 11-day survey, which was conducted last month, 392 people voted, and of the 307 city water customers voting, 168 (54.5 percent) said they are willing to pay a monthly surcharge. Lester and Crawford were the most outspoken on the two sides of the issue. Lester said, “My first reaction was, I was against it. My second reaction was, it’s not fair that the city of Vandalia supports this recycling. “But, I began to think, the water bill itself – the number of gallons required for minimum billing (and) there are a lot of people in town who don’t use the minimum amount of water. It’s not fair, but it’s necessary – it’s necessary for the service that we provide. “Trash pickup, the big can – grandma puts one little bag in that big container (and pays what everyone else does). That’s not fair, but it’s necessary – we’ve got to have that service,” Lester said. “The tax bill, in general – we all pay for the park district (and) I’m sure there’s a lot of people who haven’t used those facilties in decades. That’s not fair, but it’s necessary. “And the schools – a lot of people never had any kids and they paid for that. It’s not fair, but it’s necessary that we have that,” he said. “So, once I got past all of that, I began to think about FAYCO, in general. They created this recycling; we’re not creating a recycling business. “In a lot of cities and towns, it’s a mandatory requirement, so they charge them (residents) somewhere between $7 and $15 a month,” Lester said. As the county’s population center, he said, “Vandalia is the only entity that can keep it going. “Maybe it’s not fair, but I feel like it’s necessary, for a buck, it’s necessary to give it a shot until maybe some other entity can take it over, and maybe the manufacturers can be kicking into the kitty for the products they produce that we have to turn around and recycle. “Because of that,” Lester said, “I’ve decided I’m voting for it.” Stunkel agreed with Lester, saying that he also wasn’t in favor of the surcharges. But, he said, “I figure we’re going to recycling and it could be $10 or $15 a month and two more cans in our driveway. “So, a dollar is in the best interest. And, we are the county seat and we should lead by example,” Stunkel said. Lester said, “It’s the wise choice of many alternatives. We just keep digging holes and throwing stuff in. I think the ultimate goal (is to) reach a point where we recycle everything.” Crawford was just as strong in her argument for not supporting the surcharges. “The response I’ve gotten in person, on the phone, on Facebook, in text messages is overwhelmingly negative,” she said. “We are two separate people sitting up here – we are ourselves and we are representatives of the city of Vandalia. “You ask Dorothy Crawford if you are in favor of recycling – absolutely. You ask me, am I willing to pay $1.25 (a month) for recycling on my water bill – absolutely. “You ask me if I’m willing to force the people across the street, down the street, three blocks over who don’t use it, who never will use it to pay for it, the answer is no. That is not the city’s responsibility,” Crawford said. “It is a county-wide program; it should not be held up on the backs of the people of Vandalia. “And, personally, I think, ‘well, we already make they pay for a bunch of stuff they don’t use is a lousy reason to charge them for something else they don’t use,” she said. Barker said that while he also personally supports the recycling concept, he doesn’t feel the financial support should come solely from city residents. “I’m pro-recycling – I would just like to see it done in a more fair manner,” Barker said. He said that he would rather see the issue taken to the county level, with county residents being charged 20 cents a month to help fund the programs. While voted for both surcharges, Hobler said he has an issue with the electronic recycling program. “That’s not really fair for anybody,” he said about the $5 charge for every load, regardless of the number of items in that load. “The loss could be made up in the fair charging,” he said. Lester agreed, saying that he believes there could be a better way to administer that program. Hobler said that he agreed to support the city’s support of the programs, for the time being, because they will help keep the programs going while other options for recycling are looked at.

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