PEORIA — You may have noticed that your water bill is $13 cheaper lately. That’s because the so-called “garbage fee,” which used to be collected for the City by Illinois American Water Company, is no longer included on your water bill.
But now a separate bill for garbage collection is coming soon to your mailbox.
“On October 30, 2012, the City Council approved an agreement with First Tech, a subsidiary of Busey Bank, to manage the billing services for the refuse collection fee,” City Manager Patrick Urich said via email. “We will be mailing out bills shortly, and they will be going to property owners (not tenants).”
Only residential property owners will receive garbage collection bills. Commercial, industrial and non-profit properties contract separately for garbage collection service, so they are not charged for residential waste service, which is provided by Peoria Disposal Company (PDC) under a contract with the City of Peoria. “This is why it wasn’t recommended to be a property tax-supported service,” Urich explained.
One question that has been raised by residents is how payment of this fee will be enforced. Under the old system, non-payment could result in water service being shut off. The new system doesn’t have such an obvious enforcement mechanism.
“We have been reviewing all of our options,” Urich said, “including stopping trash collection, placing liens, or including non-payment in the State Comptroller’s Local Debt Recovery Program that would allow us to intercept any income tax refund if monies are owed to us.”
Another question that has been voiced in the community is why PDC doesn’t bill residents for garbage collection directly, which would save the City money on the cost of billing, which is estimated to be as much as $160,000 per year.
Urich says that “the fee is ours (the City’s),” not PDC’s. “If we did not have a contract with PDC to collect waste and dispose of it, each individual would be responsible for it (like the unicorporated county).” In other words, the contract is between PDC and the City, not PDC and individual property owners. Thus, if the City wants to recoup its costs, it must bear the cost of billing property owners.
If individuals were to contract individually with a waste collection company, Urich added, “the cost could be considerably higher.”