Politics & Government

Sedgwick County raises trash fee that pays for community cleanups

A Sedgwick County fee that pays for special trash collections will be going up next year, the county commissioners decided Wednesday.

The fee for homeowners will rise from $5.88 a year to $7.80. The fee shows up on property tax bills as a special assessment called the county solid waste user fee.

Businesses also will see increases based on the trash generation of their property.

At present, business fees range from $4.44 to $7.87.

In 2020, they’ll rise to a range of $5.03 to $10.07.

The fee is expected to generate $1.8 million for solid waste disposal activity that goes beyond ordinary trash pickup, which is done by private companies. The county fee is collected along with property tax assessments and does not appear on the trash collection bill.

The fee helps to support the bulky waste coupon program, which lets residents dispose of up to 1,000 pounds of furniture, large appliances, etc. without charge.

Additional programs funded by the fee include:

Debris cleanup after major storms.

Five annual household hazardous waste collection events, plus special collections of e-waste, tires and leftover prescription drugs.

The Christmas tree recycling program.

Cleanup of illegal dumping violations and hoarding situations that threaten the public health.

Commissioner Jim Howell noted that the fee has been on the rise and asked how it has tracked compared to the consumer price index.

Commission Chairman David Dennis said he doesn’t think that’s an issue.

“I’m not sure we need to worry about the CPI when we’re talking about something that’s . . . 16 cents a month as I recall,” he said. “Sixteen cents a month to provide a service that is hugely popular, I don’t know that’s something we’re going to be criticized on for being above the CPI.”

The fee works out to about 49 cents a month now, and will be rising to about 65 cents a month next year.

The increase in fees was approved shortly after Susan Erlenwein, director of environmental resources, updated the commission on the county’s annual garbage statistics.

Solid waste has been on a 20-year downtrend. In 1998, we threw away almost 550,000 tons of trash, just short of seven pounds a day for every person in the county. In 2018, that dropped to 395,000 ton, the equivalent of 4.1 pounds per person per day.

Recycling is a mixed bag; as high as 67,000 tons and as low as 47,000 tons in the past five years.

Erlenwein also gave commissioners the final tally on the waste tire roundup held in April.

This year, 2,663 vehicles delivered 180,372 tires for disposal by the county. It was the biggest haul since 2004, when the tire roundup brought in 222,600 tires.

Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.