City Hikes Garbage Collection Rates $1

Benwood residents will pay $1 more each month for garbage service after Mayor Ed Kuca broke a tie Tuesday among City Council members and said “yes” to increasing the rate.

Council voted 3-3 on the ordinance to raise the rate from $13 a month to $14 a month, with members John Kazemka and Lori Longwell not present. Councilmen Chuck Terry, Larry Ferrera III and Carl Richter voted in favor, while Curtis Mele, Walter Yates and Robert Rose voted against.

When there is a tie vote on Benwood City Council, the mayor casts the deciding vote.

“I know it’s needed,” Kuca said. “We’re required by the (state) auditor to stay in compliance with the rates. Right now, we’re losing money. We’re out of compliance, and $1 is not out of the reason to vote it down.”

The West Virginia Auditor’s Office requires municipalities to bring in garbage collection revenues equal to at least 50 percent of operation costs, City Clerk Judy Hunt said. She noted the $1 a month rate hike still wouldn’t bring Benwood into compliance with state mandates, but it would “bring it closer.”

“I know it’s not a popular thing to do … but what are you going to do?” Kuca asked. “I feel we have to increase it. … Once in a while, you have to do the sewage rate. You have to do the water rate – to keep in compliance.”

Mele said he realized the city was required to raise the garbage rate.

“But after already raising the water and sewer rates, it’s just too much on our citizens,” he said.

Rose added he didn’t think the increase was needed.

“Our water bills are high,” he said. “We have a lot of elderly people living here, and those of lower income. A $1 increase does hurt people. It’s ridiculous to have another rate increase.”

Yates agreed Benwood residents already were “charged enough” for their garbage pickup.

Meanwhile, resident Robert Loudenslager spoke before council about what he termed the “hair-brained” decision by city officials to place new stop signs at the end of McMechen Street near the W.Va. 2 off-ramp. He noted a “yield” sign still exists for those using the off-ramp, and when motorists stop at the new signs on McMechen Street it confuses the yielding driver who doesn’t know whether to stop or continue.

The signs were placed at the request of Ferrera, who lives on McMechen Street. He said he has videotaped traffic on the street since they were placed late last week and can show they are effective at slowing down traffic.

Police Chief Frank Longwell agreed the signs were slowing down traffic, but he added he received many calls from residents who don’t think they are necessary. He suggested the signs might do more good at the Fifth Street intersection with McMechen Street.

Longwell noted that while McMechen Street belongs to the city of Benwood, the W.Va. 2 off-ramp belongs to the state. He believes it would be a lengthy process to convince state officials to take down the yield sign.

Council members decided Longwell first should contact West Virginia Division of Highways about removing the yield sign. If it appears this won’t be done in a timely fashion, they said they will consider the option of moving the stop signs to Fifth Street.