Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Orange Park Council OKs Fee Increases

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Orange Park Council OKs Fee Increases

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Maraghy, County Line staff writer

Despite complaints from residents, the Orange Park Town Council unanimously approved an increase in garbage, water and sewer fees -- about $6.50 per residence per month -- to help recoup losses from the town's recycling program, and to meet increasingly strict federal water treatment mandates designed to clean up the St. Johns River.

"These are tough decisions for the council to make," said Mayor Travis Cummings, who said he worries that the increases may not be high enough. He is up for re-election this year and he said he expects this could get him voted out of office.

Vice Mayor Phyllis Renninger called it regretful but necessary. The average residence -- using 7,000 gallons of water per month -- will see an increase of about $1.78 for water, $3.09 for sewer and $1.61 for garbage -- on its bills. Businesses will experience a 9.6 percent increase in water and sewer bills plus a 6.7 percent hike in garbage bills, according to the town finance department.

Meanwhile, several residents -- some on fixed incomes -- complained during the public comment portion of the meeting.

"This is unfair. Once a week, I put out one little plastic bag," said Sarah Pendleton, who was reprimanded by the mayor for shouting out during the meeting. "That is very disheartening and totally unfair."

One resident, Fran Jones, said she was surprised to see less than two dozen people in the audience. She expected it to be packed full of protesters.

"I'm shocked to know the people of Orange Park don't care," she said.

Jones and some other residents encouraged the town to pick up trash once a week, instead of twice, as an alternative way to cut costs.

The twice-weekly pickup is a nice thing that sets Orange Park apart, said Councilman Steve Jones. Renninger said once-a-week-pickup would still result in the same amount of trash, the same number of runs to the dump and same amount of labor. But Cummings directed the public works committee to again research that idea and to look also at hiring an outside source to handle sanitation.

Some residents complained that the town has been frivolous in spending, pointing to the new state-of-the-art public safety building and the new public works building under construction. …

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