Durham News: Opinion

June 10, 2014

Bill Bell: Garbage fee fair for those who receive the service

This is a response to Frank Hyman’s commentary “Pro-garbage fee council members could work for the airlines” (DN, June 8).

This is a response to Frank Hyman’s commentary “Pro-garbage fee council members could work for the airlines” (DN, June 8).

I think your readers should consider the source of the writer in determining the validity of his argument. Frank is a friend whom I consider to be off base on his comments and caught in a time warp with respect to his issue on the garbage fee being regressive.

Unlike other city services for which all property owners pay taxes and have access to or receives directly, garbage collection is not one of them. All property tax owners contribute the majority of the funds that go to support our solid waste departments (i.e. garbage collection), but not all property owners who pay for that support receive garbage collection.

Furthermore the City Council accepted the fact that the administration has moved our solid waste department into an enterprise fund, which means legally we can charge service fees to support the solid waste department – unlike the 20 years ago that Frank references when it was not an enterprise department.

The $1.80 per month garbage fee paid by those people who receive the service is not regressive and only helps to support the solid waste department rather than continuing to have all property tax payers pay taxes for garbage collection even though they don’t and can’t receive the garbage pick-up service.

Frank references what occurred 20 years ago and his support then of not charging garbage fees. Well what also happened more than 20 years ago was Frank’s adamant opposition to the City Council issuing COPs to build the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. In fact one of the city councilpersons (Chuck Grubb) who led the fight to build the DBAP with COPs was later defeated by Frank on this issue.

Frank was against building the DBAP and Chuck was for the DBAP. Chuck did this even though it had been defeated in a county-wide referendum the year before when I was then chairman of the Durham County Board of Commissioners and I supported the referendum.

Imagine where Durham would have been had the City Council listended to Frank and not built the DBAP. Again your readers should consider the source of Frank’s argument against a $1.80 per month garbage fee in view of his past record of city recommendations both as a citizen and then city council person.

We are not trying to keep up with other cities by charging a garbage fee. If so we would have made it a much higher fee as other cities in our region and beyond have done for years. We think that it is time that we begin to lessen property tax increases as much as possible by shifting more of the burden to the users of those services, which is allowable and in my opinion a good business decision.

I support the garbage fee of $1.80 per month and I don’t need to work for the airlines as Frank suggests. I prefer working for the citizens of Durham, and my record will indicate that I have done a pretty good job of doing that, including for our low- and moderate-income citizens.

William V. “Bill” Bell is the mayor of Durham.

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