LAKE STATION — Discussions about the refuse collection rate increase sparked a heated situation prior to the City Council's giving final approval to the charge.
Residents and city leaders last week were given an opportunity to share their thoughts on how to handle refuse collection before voting took place.
At one point, loud arguing involving Council President Carlos Luna, Councilman Neil Anderson and a resident filled the council chambers with the men talking over one another.
With a bang of his gavel, Mayor Christopher Anderson calmed the situation and indicated people would be asked to leave the meeting if that behavior continued. There were no other issues after that.
The panel later voted 4-3 to give final approval to the $4 rate increase that will start in January. Current rates are $14.50 per month for basic residential service, but there are discounts for seniors and low-income residents.
The plan is to use the additional funding to purchase two new collection trucks to replace existing vehicles that regularly break down. City officials want to acquire the vehicles, expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, as soon as possible, but it wasn't immediately certain how long that process will take.
Council members supporting the rate increase said it's important to keep city services in-house. They think changes can be made in the Solid Waste Department to generate more funding for the municipality and make the entity operate more efficiently.
They also indicated they want to avoid more outsourcing of city services.
"If we don't take ownership of our city, who will?" Councilwoman Esther Rocha-Baldazo said.
Council members voting against the rate increase think a proposal to have GMI Recycling Services handle trash and recycling pickup would have produced numerous benefits in the city. The council voted 4-3 in November to turn down that offer.
Councilman Rick Long said accepting the proposal would immediately have generated more than $200,000 for the municipality, because GMI would have purchased three of the city's collection trucks. A portion of that funding could have been used to address compliance issues at Lake Station's compost facility, Long said.
He and other supporters of outsourcing said it also would have reduced costs in the municipality, enhanced trash service and locked in the current rates for the next five years.
Voting for the rate increase were Luna, Rocha-Baldazo, Fred Williams and Jennifer Miller. Voting against were Long, Neil Anderson and Ericka Castillo.