weather icon Clear

Las Vegas OKs 5 percent trash surcharge to counter problem

Updated July 17, 2019 - 10:40 pm

Las Vegas residents will pay about $9 more per year for trash and recycling under a 5 percent increase approved Wednesday by the City Council to boost funding for environmental programs meant to curtail a mounting trash problem throughout the city.

An anticipated $4 million in new yearly revenue will be collected in a special fund to address an escalating amount of debris unrelated to the trash picked up from neighborhood curbs, according to Karen Duddlesten, the city’s chief community services officer.

In the past decade, dumping in public spaces — streets, vacant lots, parks and alleyways — has climbed so quickly, city officials warn it is a public health issue that cannot be ignored. When the debris ends up in storm drains, it may threaten the water supply.

Councilman Cedric Crear said the council must act or risk infectious disease outbreaks. “If we do not, believe me, we will have outbreaks.”

To illustrate the growing issue, Duddlesten said city staff removed roughly 300 tons of debris in 2009. In the last fiscal year, the figure had climbed to about 3,000 tons.

“So the rate at which this is increasing over the past 10 years is of great concern,” she said.

The influx is also reflected in employee time spent addressing the problem: From a decade ago to today, staff hours ballooned from 3,000 to 28,000, she said, with an additional $250,000 cost for materials and contractors.

The issue is spread throughout the city, Duddlesten said.

In a 6-1 vote, the council approved implementing the environmental surcharge on all billings for trash collection and residential recycling services. It will be collected by Republic Silver State Disposal and passed on to the city, beginning Oct. 1.

Such a surcharge is allowed in the 15-year franchise agreement between the city and the company that was signed two years ago, officials said.

Only Councilman Stavros Anthony opposed the proposal, saying the money wouldn’t improve trash or recycling collection. He also called the resolution’s language unclear and said constituents should first be formally notified of the new charge.

Customers can expect an increase of $2.28 per quarter on average, Duddlesten said.

Where will the money go?

The city expects to collect roughly $3 million of new revenue in fiscal 2020, since the surcharge will only cover nine months. The annual funding is estimated to reach $4 million beginning in fiscal 2021, according to Duddlesten.

While the revenue is restricted to a special fund and earmarked toward “environmental programs” benefiting public welfare, the City Council’s discretion on using the money appears broad.

Duddlesten offered some examples: cleanups, security upgrades to public parks and storm water infrastructure, as well as the city’s Courtyard Homeless Resource Center — specifically sanitation and enhanced services to reduce homeless encampments.

While homelessness was not explicitly identified as a cause of debris, there were such suggestions.

“This is a temporary solution to cleaning up some really hard issues within our community,” Councilman Brian Knudsen said. “And my hope is that, as a city, we spend quite a bit more time looking at systemic issues and challenges that plague our community that result in homelessness.”

The surcharge is reminiscent of the city’s failed effort to get the Nevada Legislature to approve a bill in the 2019 session to apply a sewer surcharge to generate about $5 million annually for homelessness programs.

But city spokesman Jace Radke, when asked why the city didn’t first pursue the current plan, noted the two were distinct: The original version of Assembly Bill 73 involved allowing the city to impose a new sewer surcharge, while the resolution approved Wednesday applies to the existing franchise agreement for trash pickup.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.