HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs ordinance requiring property owners to have and pay for waste removal services will get a second look by City Attorney Scott Walker. The question is not whether the ordinance is valid, but to see if there is a way to omit property owners who either own vacant properties or who might be out of their homes for months at a time and have no waste to remove.
Those issues and more brought residents to City Hall on Dec. 11 to express their feelings about paying for waste pick up services.
One expressed concern was a letter from the City of High Springs, which was mailed around Thanksgiving, informing the more than 250 property owners who have not been paying for waste removal that they now have to pay for it. While Finance Director Jennifer Stull indicated some people are now paying for the service, some are still not in compliance. The loss to the city is nearly $60,000 per year, an amount too large to ignore.
Some residents have used the waste removal service, but because they had no other utility services with the City of High Springs, the city had a difficult time identifying them for monthly billing purposes. Extensive research was conducted earlier this year to identify those property owners in an effort to bring them into compliance with the rest of the city.
Other residents attended the meeting because they said they lived close to the Alachua/High Springs Waste Collection Center on U.S. Highway 441 and routinely take their waste directly to that facility. They saw no reason to change that practice and pointed out that roads in that area would be torn up by having large waste removal trucks traveling weekly to their homes.
Vice-Mayor Scott Jamison pointed out that the ordinance mandating waste pick up was already in place and was a health issue. “It is not optional and it is the City's duty to enforce it,” he said.
"State law requires cities to collect garbage," said City Manager Ed Booth after the meeting. "Cities are required to provide for quality of life, health and welfare to their citizens."
Another issue of concern brought up by residents was a resolution on the City Commission Agenda which would have, if approved, required property owners to pay $234 in advance for one year of waste removal services along with their county property taxes. While that practice would not have taken place until tax notices are sent out late next year, some people were concerned the added cost could prove a hardship for some property owners on fixed incomes.
After listening to citizen comments for some time, Walker said he would be willing to look into ways the city might be able to omit compliance with the original ordinance.
Commissioners ultimately tabled the resolution, which would have added the cost of waste services of $234 to the tax bill, to the second meeting in January. “We are now looking at other options to get customers in compliance,” said Booth after the meeting.
Booth later said that he and Walker have a meeting scheduled in early January to look at whether there may be some way to exempt individuals that will be in compliance with the ordinance.
“Given the explicit language of the ordinance,” he said, “those exemptions are expected to be minimal.”
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