Jonesboro postpones cleaning fee decision

JONESBORO — A controversial proposal to charge Jonesboro residents a fee to keep the city clean has stalled for now.

The city council postponed the issue indefinitely Monday so it could studied in more depth. Had it passed, residents would have been assessed $180 on their tax bills each year to help pay for street sweeping, tree and limb removal and garbage pick-up regardless of whether they took advantage of all of those services.

“I would say let’s educate, through our newsletter, to encourage people to support our city, so I would make a motion that we just continue to study this,” said Councilman Wallace Norrington.

It remains to be seen whether the city can come up with a solution to the issue. Last week, Mayor Joy Day said the garbage service wasn’t earning enough in revenues to pay for its short-term and long-term personnel and capital expenses.

She said it cost $111,176 to provide the service this year. At a monthly rate of $15 per customer, it earns back about $108,000, she added.

If the one-time annual fee was implemented, there would be no difference for residents who already make quarterly payments to use the garbage service.

“This would take the place of the $45 quarterly garbage fee,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins told his colleagues that he feels the fee should be assessed in quarterly increments, rather than in one lump sum.

But, only 600 residents take advantage of the service. Day said county estimates put Jonesboro’s population at 2,129 residents, although there were 4,724 people who claimed the city as their address in 2010, according to U.S. census data.

Some residents have previously suggested separate fees, depending on whether a person uses the garbage service. Others have pointed out the fee would pay for city-wide services, such as street sweeping and public park clean-up services.

But garbage service continues to be at the center of the debate regardless of how proponents try to portray the need.

Councilmen Clarence Mann and Joe Compton said they disagreed with the idea of city officials telling residents to pay for a service regardless of whether they wanted it.

“I don’t think it’s necessary for us to tell each and every person in this city that they must do something,” Mann said.

Compton said some residents may not need garbage service at their home. He said some residents who own businesses in the city may choose to dump their personal garbage at the dumpsters they rent for their work space. He also compared it to new federal requirements for health care coverage.

“I have a hard time forcing somebody to buy a product, and that’s pretty much what we’re doing,” said Compton. “It reminds me of the Obamacare law. You’re going to buy health insurance whether you want it or not. I look at that as the same thing we’re doing by telling someone, ‘You’re going to buy garbage service from the city of Jonesboro.’

“That just gets all over me and I’m not going to do that,” he continued.