Garbage and sewer rates will increase - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Garbage and sewer rates will increase

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May 31, 2005

Albany-- Some services you were getting for free, you'll be paying for now. Albany city leaders are considering charging people for street sweeping and some other public works services, but commissioners hope to see a cleaner Albany because of it.

The rate increase is just one way the city is trying to balance its $78 million budget.

Come July, people in Albany will likely be paying $5.98 more a month for public works services from yard trimming pick-up to sewer maintenance. "It's unfortunate, but Albany can take some solace in the fact that where still below most of the cities we compare ourselves to," said Public Works Director Phil Roberson.

Roberson says the rate increase will offset the rising cost of fuel and electricity. It will also pay for two code enforcement officer who will crack down on litter violators and for a tub grinder to turn yard trimmings into mulch. "They'll see an immediate increase in their litter prevention. Also, the tub grinder at our inert facility will allow us to prolong the life of that facility another five or six years beyond what we're already projecting."

Now, the city won't foot the bill for street sweeping, just one way of cutting the budget. Transferring the cost of these services to customers will save the city about $1 million a year.

Some of that money will go to give public works, recreation, transit and some other city employees much needed pay raise. "A lot of our employees are grossly underpaid," said Roberson. "They need to be raised up so they can have a minimum standard of living."

Many employees who've been making minimum wage will get up huge raise, some more than $5,000 a year. Commissioners also tentatively approved a 2% raise for all city employees and a 2.5% merit raise for some employees. "If you want to really fire people up and get the maximum benefit from your workforce, you need to fund merit system you have in place," said Commissioner Bob Langstaff.

The public works rate increase and the employees pay raises are contingent on if the budget is approved at the end of June. Closing the Thornton Gym is also a possibility, but most commissioners are against that. Recreation Director Ken Williams suggested shutting down the east Albany facility to save money, after the city challenged all departments to cut cost by 10%.

But Tuesday, commissioners said they would rather scale back hours at several gyms than close Thornton. Williams also suggested cutting one season for adult softball and cutting back on other athletic programs. "Closing a gym and closing one of the most successful recreation programs we offer - the men's softball--- it just doesn't make sense," said Commissioner Bob Langstaff. "We can maybe reduce hours of operations, reduces days of operation of gyms in order to keep all of our gyms open."

If approved, the rate increase would begin July 1st.

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