\"The District\" debates increasing cost for waste removal

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COLUMBIA - The Downtown Community Improvement District (CID) debated the need for a flat rate increase for waste disposal Tuesday.

The 10 percent rate increase would be applied directly to commercial facilities.

The Columbia City Council read a proposed ordinance at the beginning of the month which would increase the waste disposal rate for commercial businesses, but not residents.

In the FY 2015 budget, the solid waste collection division is costing the city more money than it collects. The city manager recommended increasing the rates for commercial establishments to make up the difference, but even that may not be enough.

The CID debated with city representatives over the need for these rate increases. Columbia representatives said a study is being done to show what Columbia can do to keep its waste removal program going.

MSW Consultants is conducting a cost of service study on Columbia Public Works' solid waste collection system, and although the study is not complete, one of the city's representatives said there are enough results to merit increasing the collection rates for Columbia commercial businesses.

"There are different services that we do above and beyond just the base service, but everybody is paying the same rate," said Cynthia Mitchell, a Columbia solid waste utility manager.

Instead of increasing residential rates, the proposed ordinance would eliminate the vouchers for black garbage bags.

"I can tell you for this fiscal year we spent over $500,000 on those black bags alone," Mitchell said. "The $300,000 to $400,000 wouldn't be enough to cover us for next year."

If the proposed ordinance is approved, the city would continue to offer the blue recycle bags.

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