WATERTOWN — Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith thinks the city can save money by picking up trash at night.
The mayor made that suggestion on Monday night when City Council members met for the first time to talk about the $41.9 million spending plan that carries a 6.65 percent tax increase, 23 layoffs and severe cuts in parks and recreation department programs.
During the first budget session, the mayor said it would also be more efficient by picking up trash three nights a week.
“It would be a heck of a lot easier because no one would be on the street,” he said, adding there would be less truck and car traffic and trash collection would not have to compete with school buses.
The mayor brought up the concept during his mayoral campaign last fall.
On Monday, he said the eight employees who work in curbside trash collection could work days when they weren’t out picking up trash at night.
They now pick up refuse five days a week from about 8,000 residences. The service also includes picking up recyclables bi-weekly and yard waste and brush during the year.
Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo said she supported looking at the proposal.
The mayor said the city could install a cement pad and construct a pole barn, where the trash can be stored until it is hauled to the Rodman landfill that the Development Authority of the North Country owns.
Trucks with mechanical arms would used, making it easier for trash collection. The city could save money on tipping fees if city trucks were used to take it to the landfill, he said.
But Public Works Superintendent Patrick W. Keenan seemed to be hesitant with the idea, saying that there “would be a multitude of issues in evaluating that proposal.”
“I’m happy to look into it,” he went on to say.
No decision was made Monday night. City Manager Kenneth A. Mix told council members that the proposal would be evaluated after the budget process.
The city made about $22,000 on trash collection last year, with revenues for totes and stickers coming in at $916,000 and operating costs at $894,000. Stickers cost $3.25, while residents pay $48.10 for a 32-gallon tote per quarter, $72.15 for a 64-gallon tote per quarter and 96.20 for a 92-gallon tote. During Monday’s budget deliberations, council members also tackled other portions of an about $8 million public works budget, such as the CitiBus public transit system, central garage, maintenance of roads and snow removal.
Earlier in the night, they also met with water superintendent Vickie Murphy to discuss the water and sewer budgets and hydroelectricity. Water and sewer rates would remain the same in the proposed budget.
A marathon second session will be held from 8:30 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m. Saturday when council members plan to discuss parks and recreation, police and fire departments, the Flower Memorial Library and a series of smaller departments.
Mr. Mix has proposed cutting 11 filled positions in his $41.9 million spending plan to offset a $2.5 million loss in sales tax revenues caused by the coronavirus financial crash.
He wants to reduce spending from the current $45.8 million budget by $3.9 million, or 8.53 percent.
Mr. Mix also recommends increasing the real property tax levy $717,600, which results in a tax rate of $9.37 per $1,000 of assessed value or a 6.65 percent, or 58 cents per $1,000, increase over last year’s rate.
A taxpayer with a $110,000 home would pay an additional $64.28 in taxes in the proposed budget.