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Neon to wait before raising garbage bills

Following the actions of the City of Jenkins, the Fleming-Neon City Council will gather facts and figures and decide between now and its January meeting whether to increase city sanitation fees.

At the council’s December meeting, City Sanitation Foreman Jake Johnson said the city would no longer break even on its sanitation budget after January. City Clerk Janice Banks said she is not certain the sanitation department is breaking even now. Johnson pointed to a recent action taken by the Letcher County Fiscal Court to raise its sanitation fees by $3 a month and said that between increasing maintenance on aging equipment and increases in tipping fees (the amount per ton to dump garbage at landfills), the sanitation budget will definitely be in the red after January 1.

Johnson told the council that the higher tipping fee will go into effect following the New Year, and suggested the council follow the fiscal court’s lead by raising the city’s sanitation collection fee from the current rate of $12 to $15 a month. He said the increase in tipping fees to $50 a ton will increase the city’s monthly landfill costs by between $1,500 and $2,000. Johnson said the city barely breaks even with the tipping fee at $45.36 per ton.

Mayor Susie Polis told the council that the city has a tight budget as it is and cannot afford to run a defi- cit in sanitation. She added that the city has to pick up the garbage.

“We can’t lose money,” said Polis. “We have to have our boys (city workers), and our truck, and we have to pick up the garbage.”

City Clerk Banks told the council the city would be fortunate if the examination of accounts does not reveal that the sanitation department is already losing money.

“A year and a half ago, we were breaking even,” said Banks. “We will be lucky if we aren’t losing money now.”

Councilman Tom Haynes agreed and pointed to the increased maintenance fees for the truck among other cost increases. Councilman James D. Collins said that while he understands there is a need to raise the sanitation fees, he would like to see a full accounting of sanitation income and expenditures before the council sets a new rate. Haynes agreed and suggested the council look at the accounts and set a new rate at the January meeting. Polis said she would table the matter until then.

The rate increase was one of three items Johnson introduced to the council. He also set the scheduled for garbage pick-up during the week of the Christmas holiday. Monday delivery will run on the regular schedule, and customers who have a Wednesday pick-up will have their trash picked up on Tuesday along with the regular Tuesday pick-up. Those with regular Thursday pick-up will have their trash picked up on Wednesday.

Johnson also announced the end of blue bag recycling in Fleming-Neon. He told the council the county has picked up the Dumpsters for recyclables and that recyclable materials should just go into the regular garbage for pick-up. Johnson said the program had never really taken off, but that he hates to see it end.

“There will be no more bluebag pick-up on Tuesday,” said Johnson.

In other business, Water Department Manager Chris Banks told the council that the city well is now up to its full operating level and the city has not purchased water from the Letcher County Water and Sewer District for the last five days. He also said that the city had a 31 percent rate of water loss for November.

Mayor Polis also told the council she has lost patience with the Letcher County Library Board in the matter of cleaning up the lot where the old Lillian Webb Library had stood. The council exchanged the lot where Hazen’s Department Store had stood with the library board for the old library lot and the agreement called for a clean lot for a clean lot. However, the library board has reneged on the agreement and the old library lot has become an eyesore and danger to the city, she said.

Councilman Tom Haynes pointed to a report from the November 16 meeting of the Letcher County Fiscal Court of a large surplus ($1,056,726) held by the library board as evidence that it does not lack the funds to pay the costs of cleaning up the lot. Polis said she is ready to turn the matter over to City Attorney Jimmy Craft to settle in court.

“This library business is getting old,” said Polis. “I haven’t heard anything from them. I don’t know what we can do other than take them to court.”

Santa Claus will visit the city on Saturday, December 19. He will hold court on the city stage at 6 p.m. and treat bags will be given out. There will also be hot chocolate and coffee available.

Mayor Polis also announced that city Police Officer Adam Swindall has been very ill and was hospitalized in intensive care. She said she is not sure when Swindall will be able to resume his duties.

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