City to absorb cost increase for garbage services
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA — During a three and a half hour work session Monday, the City Council agreed that the city should absorb a 26-cent fee increase for residential garbage services provided by Veolia Environmental Services.

Veolia gave notice of the increase in November, and it will take effect Jan. 1, 2013. However, the city must give 30 days notice of the change before charging residents for it. Because there is not sufficient time to give this notice, and because the city’s contract is up with Veolia at the end of next year – meaning another fee increase is likely on the way at that time – the council unanimously agreed the city should waive the increase for residents.

With about 5,500 residences in the city, the city will absorb roughly $1,430 a month or $17,000 over the next year. Mayor Doug Murphree said doing one increase next year is more appealing to the public than having one now and another shortly after. Council President Rocky Lucas agreed and said the money is coming from taxpayers anyway.

The council also discussed the future of the city-owned East Highland School building. The nonprofit I Can Achieve has been in talks with the city for about a year to acquire ownership of the building to operate a more than 20 community programs, but the group lacks the estimated $6 million it would take to renovate the dilapidated school building.

Founder Mary Hicks has stated that they cannot acquire grant funding until they have a building, and has asked the city to consider several ownership options.

Council members questioned if the East Highland community would rather see the building demolished and the property used as a green space or park area with a memorial to the school’s history in place, as opposed to waiting more than a year to give I Can Achieve time to secure grants that may or may not come.

After a lengthy discussion, the council generally agreed to give I Can Achieve a chance at a temporary lease for the purposes of acquiring grants, excluding physical use of the building, if the group can present the council with a legitimate business plan.

Also discussed were traffic issues along Magnolia Drive and Country Club Road. Police Chief Chris Carden said police would step up patrols in those areas to control the frequent speeding that is often a complaint of citizens in those neighborhoods.

The council also talked about applying for a FEMA fire grant, purchasing a new fire truck and potentially deeding a small portion of the land near East Highland School to resident Wallace Prater.

The council meets tonight at 6. On the agenda are two public hearings for zoning of property and the approval of several grant resolutions to demolish dilapidated buildings around the city.

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© 2012