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F-N is going in the hole on garbage pickup; fee increase expected soon

Sanitation fees will probably be raised in Fleming-Neon within the next month, although exactly who will be paying higher costs is uncertain. At the March meeting of the Fleming-Neon City Council, Mayor Susie Polis told the council that the Sanitation Department is losing money and the city cannot afford to allow it to run in the red any longer. Sanitation and other utility rates are an ongoing issue in the county.

Polis told the council she had asked for an internal audit on the Sanitation Department and the results showed about four customers who have never received a bill. However, the relatively small number of overlooked customers is not the reason for the deficit. City Foreman Jake Johnson told the council there are seven Dumpsters in the city system and the city does not charge for the ones at the Fleming-Neon Volunteer Fire Department and the Little League Baseball Park in Goose Creek. The others require a monthly fee, and one is kept for rental.

Johnson said that the Dumpster at the fire department is slightly smaller than the ballpark Dumpster, but each must be emptied twice a week, with a cost of around $100 each. The tipping fee (fee charged to dump garbage at the landfill) at the Millstone landfill is $50 per ton. The Dumpster at the Little League Park is unused for most of the year, but between April 1 and July 30 it must be emptied twice a week as well. He said he had emptied the ballpark Dumpster earlier that day for the first time this year. If the council does levy a fee on the Dumpsters, the ballpark Dumpster will only be charged during the season.

Johnson said that each Dumpster is usually full when it is picked up, although the one at the fire department also gets used illegally by people who dump items there. He added that the Dumpster at the school is also used illegally, mostly on weekends. But whoever is responsible for dumping, the city still has to pay $50 per ton and that the monthly fee for the two free-of-charge-Dumpsters is in the range of $800 per month.

Mayor Polis said that while she does not want to raise rates, the city cannot operate at a deficit. Councilman Joe King suggested the city might add $4 per month to user fees, but Polis said she would need to examine the numbers before raising user rates. She added that she does not want to penalize people who pay their bills while others get away without paying them. Polis added that sanitation bills are tagged to water bills and it gives the city added leverage in collecting them. The city has mandatory garbage pick-up.

Councilmember Linda Cantrell suggested meeting with representatives from the fire department and Little League to discuss the matter and the council voted to table further discussion until then. City Clerk Janice Banks told the council the monthly cost to run the Sanitation Department is $5,548.78 against receipts of $4,554.33, She added that tipping fees average $1,348 a month.

King said the council doesn’t have many options, and the members will either have to raise rates or start charging the fire department and Little League. Polis said the city will definitely bill the few customers who haven’t been getting billed and she will set a meeting with fire department and Little League officials.

In other business, Polis raised the subject of taxes. But she said the council will not address the property tax rate at this time, although the city does have the lowest rate in the county. Polis said it has become necessary to begin to take more aggressive measures to collect delinquent (unpaid) city taxes. She said the last time the council took action was in 2012 when it published a list of delinquent taxpayers. Some people came in and paid their taxes and others set up payment plans. However, not all the ones with payment plans were faithful to them and some stopped paying after a few payments.

Janice Banks said that this year’s taxes are not considered past due until April 1 and the council should wait until April before it takes any action. Linda Cantrell said the council should definitely publish an updated list of delinquent taxpayers once the final taxes are in.

Jake Johnson asked about the annual citywide spring clean-up and said that the city usually holds it in April or May. He said the actual clean-up lasted for one week last year and that although at one time the clean-up was grant funded, the city had to charge in recent years to cover the costs. The council decided the fee for extra pick-up will be $15 for a small truckload and $30 for a large one. Johnson said that when the pick-up is announced, sanitation customers can set out large items and items that they do not usually put out for garbage pick-up, like furniture and other large items, where they customarily put their garbage.

The council also discussed the building across from the Carty Funeral Home that once housed a Dollar Store, apartments, and other businesses. Mayor Polis said she sent a registered letter to the building’s owner, Larry Tolliver of Jeremiah, quite a while ago to inform him that it had begun to present a danger to the city, but Tolliver has not picked up the letter. Polis said that another window has been broken and the roof is falling in.

The council agreed it should pass the matter on to City Attorney Angie Hatton and ask her to take action. The members also discussed their Blighted and Deteriorated Property Ordinance and Mayor Polis said the city will follow the steps listed in the ordinance to have the property declared as blighted and a nuisance so it can take further action.

The council members welcomed new members Kenneth Holbrook and Ricky Fleming to their ranks, and heard a Utility Report from Water Foreman Chris Banks. Banks told the council that the water loss for February was 25 percent and that there were still some undetected leaks which hopefully will be found when Kentucky Rural Water visits the city to help find leaks. Banks said that the workers at Rural Water are experts at their jobs and that they usually work in the middle of the night when water flow is at its lowest. That way, when they detect flow, it is usually a leak.

Banks said that work to rebuild the water plant is almost finished and that everything is working well. Mayor Polis added that when the final report is complete, the city will hold an open house to allow citizens to see the new plant and the work that has been done.

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