Nearly 800 residential buildings would cease to benefit from free garbage collection if the City Council approves an ordinance the Budget Committee approved yesterday. The ordinance Ald. Matt O’Shea (19) sponsored would give these building owners 90 days to arrange their own garbage service.
“These 794 buildings are cheating the system, cheating the taxpayers and there are more out there,” Ald. O’Shea told the committee Tuesday. He says ending the loophole would free up much-needed cash and resources for other city services.
The measure is in response to a 2014 Inspector General report that found the Department of Streets and Sanitation was wasting $3.3 million collecting trash from buildings that were no longer exempt under the city’s grandfather clause. It allowed continued garbage services for buildings that had been receiving the service since July 19, 2000. Buildings that changed ownership should have been removed from the exemption list, but DSS hadn’t updated that list since 2007, the IG report concluded. Last March, the IG’s Office issued a follow up report claiming DSS failed to implement any changes.
Testifying before the Budget Committee, Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams provided an updated inventory of that list. Of the 2,500 properties that received the exemption 15-years ago, 1800 remain on the list and 794 buildings no longer qualify for free trash pickup but still benefited from the service, Williams said. While the department is making an effort to crack down on the list, he says it is “very difficult to track down land trusts or corporations” which own most of these buildings, but he’s aiming to have a complete inventory by November.
The item passed without dissent, but not everyone on the committee was thrilled with the ordinance. Ald. Brian Hopkins (2) said it’s unfair that all Chicagoans pay taxes that help pay for garbage collection, but only certain home and building owners benefit from the city service. “So what we have now is a situation where one homeowner gets free pick up provided by the city, and literally the next door neighbor has to pay an additional fee to contract with a private waste hauler,” Ald. Hopkins said, arguing it would incentivize people to dump their trash in other people’s garbage cans. “Just imagine what it would do to the alleys.”
Ald. James Cappleman (46) was also hesitant to vote in support, because like Hopkins, most of the buildings in his ward are multiple dwelling buildings. He suggested a garbage collection and fee system based on the amount of garbage buildings produce instead of the current system based on building size. Ald. Cappleman said this would incentivise more buildings to recycle.
In addition to Ald. O’Shea’s ordinance, the Committee also approved the following items:
An ordinance amending the Voluntary Water Meter Installation Pilot Program, more commonly known as the Meter Save Program. Building owners would have to install and pay for water meters at the time their building is connected to the city’s water system. The ordinance also removes the pay rate system currently in place for using water from a fire hydrant. Anyone who wants to use water from a fire hydrant would have to apply for a permit. Construction crews and street sweepers that use fire hydrants would pay the Department of Finance a flat rate of $83.78 a day. The ordinance also clarifies what sewer repairs the city is on the hook for, and what building owners would have to pay.
An additional $77,000 grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services to the City’s Department of Public Health for the Morbidity and Risk Behavior Surveillance Program. The ordinance also authorizes the Health Commissioner to enter into an agreement with the National Opinion Research Center and Planned Parenthood of Illinois to provide grant money for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evaluation Program.
An amendment to the XLI Community Development Block Grant Ordinance. The item the Office of Budget and Management directly introduced in committee would reallocate funds in two city departments. The Department of Family and Supportive services would like to reallocate $75,000 of funding originally awarded to the Samaritan Community Center and Wellspring Center for Hope, neither of which are open, to Family Rescue for its Domestic Violence Services Program. The Department of Planning and Development wants to put an additional $904,981 towards its Developer Services Program. Those funds were made available after “unexpected repayments of rehabilitation loans,” according to the ordinance.