City approves garbage rate hike

COVINGTON -- The Covington City Council has approved the final reading of an ordinance that will increase sanitation fees for city customers.

The increase will amount to $3 extra per month, or $1.50 for senior citizens.

The move was motivated by a July fire at the city's recycling center on Turner Street resulting from mulch that combusted due to high temperatures. Afterward, the city was informed by the Environmental Protection Division that it needs to reduce the amount of yard debris at the site. City Manager Steve Horton notified the City Council shortly afterwards that the city would be getting a notice of violation from the EPD for not meeting a requirement to get 60 percent of what it picks up out of the center within 90 days of pick up for recycling, reuse or to be sold.

The increased expenses that will be incurred by the city to grind yard debris into mulch more regularly and haul it away resulted in the council opting to increase fees.

The council also discussed the options of reducing pick up to where each customer would only get service once a month instead of once a week, which would save the city $150,000, or only pick up yard debris on an as-needed, pay as you throw basis, but opted to go with the fee increase instead.

Currently, the city grinds about once every eight months. It will need to be done at least quarterly now to meet the EPD requirement, according to Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon. There will also be extra cost resulting from charges of hauling to and dumping the debris at an inert landfill, or the Newton County landfill or biofuel operation will accept clean wood chips for burning.

City Manager Steve Horton said citizens continue to place yard debris in the street outside of rights-of-way and yards and that "creates the potential that all that debris will flow into the storm drain." It's also against city ordinance and residents can be cited for that. Horton asked all citizens to not place yard clippings, debris and limbs or anything else outside of the curb line or in an open ditch.