Canton advances controversial garbage proposal to pay for city pool
The ordinance would require all city residents to have the same garbage hauler, which would reduce cost. A municipal fee, however, would be added, with funds directed toward the city's pool project.
CANTON, S.D. — Residents of Canton are one step closer to having a single garbage provider after the city’s commission advanced a controversial new waste ordinance’s first reading on Monday, May 15.
The ordinance was recommended to the Canton City Commission by the city’s pool committee as a funding mechanism for a pool reconstruction project. The old pool, which was built more than six decades ago, had sprung a leak, and was losing roughly 8,000 gallons of water each day. In 2020, voters passed a $2.7 million bond to fund the pool’s replacement with more than 70% of the vote.
As time went on, and the effects of the pandemic affected construction pricing, bids came in about $2 million higher than expected, causing a significant funding gap. The pool committee was able to secure roughly $1.5 million in additional grants and donations, but additional financing was still sought.
Enter the garbage ordinance.
Residents of Canton currently have the choice of garbage haulers, but the new ordinance would require all residents to share the same provider. City officials believe that would reduce the cost of service by guaranteeing the provider the business of all the customers.
With a cheaper rate per address, the city would tack on a garbage fee. Rates would generally remain the same but the additional money would funnel toward the pool project.
The idea isn’t a new one. It’s already used in cities like Beresford and Worthing to help fund various street and park projects.
Yet Cantonites aired a laundry list of concerns about the execution of the plan in their city at the recent commission meeting.
‘No rights for anyone’
According to multiple residents and one trash hauler, the ordinance takes away the choice of residents to select a provider that best suits their needs and budget. One resident, who did not provide his name, said it’s cheaper for him to transport his trash himself.
“I have two houses, I’m not paying for garbage here, it’s much cheaper up there [in] Waubay. … I haul [my garbage] 165 miles so I can get it for $20 a month,” he said, admitting that he didn’t pay for garbage service in Canton.
After Canton Mayor Sandi Lundstrom informed the gentleman that city ordinance required he have trash service at his Canton home, he said it should be his right to dispose of his garbage however he pleases.
“If I have two houses, why can’t I bring it up there? Isn’t that kind of a thing with my rights of what I wanna do with my garbage? Is there no rights for anybody? Oh yeah, that’s Canton,” he said before abruptly leaving the building.
Tammy Vanbockern followed up the man by pointing out that residents, particularly seniors and lower-income households, choose their provider based on their individual situation, and said a one-size-fits-all approach may harm some people.
“As a citizen, you choose what best fits your family’s needs — physically and financially. There is a particular hauler in town that offers different size cans at a lower cost for our seniors,” she said. “If the city controls the service, the city bids out the trash and recycling, they’re given a bid that maybe averages $50 a household. Then the city adds on $20. … Now all of a sudden, everybody has to pay for garbage service that may or may not be satisfactory to them. You also have our seniors, disabled and lower-income households who may not be able to afford that.”
She asserted that the city commission needs to consider potential “roll-down” effects of slimming choices, adding that Cantonites should have the right to pick their own provider.
City decision would affect rural residents
If the city were to decide to contract with a single garbage hauler, residents within the Canton zip code who live outside of city limits would be affected as well.
Jesse DeWitt, owner of A-OK Sanitary, told the commission that he currently has about 600 customers in the Canton area, but if he were to lose the bid, he would have no choice but to discontinue service to the rural customers he has outside the city.
“If you put it out for bid, I won’t be the cheapest, I can guarantee it, and I’m not going to slash my service just to have 600 customers (around Canton),” DeWitt said. It would no longer be fiscally feasible to service the Canton area if the ordinance were put into place, he said.
Commissioner Kris York made clear that the discontinuation of service from A-OK would not only affect city residents, but rural residents, too.
“I will stop at Harrisburg (if the ordinance passes),” DeWitt said. “I hold 21,000 accounts. The 600 in Canton that I may lose is not going to hurt me. I will miss hauling in Canton, but I’m not here to save my 600 customers. I'm here to save the rights for my 600 customers.”
His blunt comments drew applause from the dozens of citizens attending the meeting, and was followed by the testimonial of Roger Simunek, who live roughly one mile outside of city limits.
“Right now we do have garbage service in the country, and we’re going to lose that. I’m sure (DeWitt) is not going to come, and the other option won’t come too,” Simunek said. “Customers around Canton are going to be without garbage service, and I don’t know what they’ll do.”
City can’t provide cost, fee estimate
Members of the public asked several times about the cost of the single-provider service.
City Finance Officer Kyle Cwach said as much as $1.5 million is needs to be raised for the pool. But bidding for garbage service — which would help commissioners determine what fees to charge — can’t be opened up until after the ordinance is passed.
Resident Jaclyn Pigors pointed out that the ordinance seems to be missing a few things, including a reference to the fee and a defined destination for the money raised.
“I see no mention of services for that fee or surcharge. Does something have to be put into ordinance, that you’re going to add a special charge to our garbage for these special projects?” Pigors said. “Basically I’m wondering how we know roughly how much it’ll be and [if it will] change every year.”
Cwach reiterated that an estimate cannot be provided until bids come in, which would not be until after the ordinance is fully passed.
After multiple other citizens pushed commissioners for an estimate on what the fee might come out to be, John Ripley, a member of the pool committee, took to the podium to more clearly explain what the committee had idealized.
“As the pool committee came to at its last meeting, we were requesting that [the commission] do this garbage service,” Ripley said. “At that time, we were basing on other bids asking that if you do this, that you could add $8 per month, not $20 that I’ve heard earlier … knowing that probably most of the people would have a lower garbage bill.”
The hard part, Ripley explained, is that rising costs for the pool’s construction has made it difficult to find an exact price tag, as the pool’s features have already been pared down since the original plans were created before the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, the costs have gone up. Based on the prior bids, we have reduced the pool so that we can fit into this money that’s needed and what we’ve raised, this is a way we can get funds and not have to go ask to raise the taxes for every tax paying citizen in Canton,” he said.
Ordinance advanced despite commissioner hesitations
During the period of public comment, Simunek said commissioners had heard plenty of opinions from the public, but felt that the public deserved to hear the opinions of the commission.
Commissioner Paul Garbers said that “it’s fine” if the ordinance is passed, but shared his concern that it might add a financial burden to businesses in town that may already be struggling. He also added that other community organizations and projects may also be in need of funding, and that future commissions might have their hands tied if the ordinance earmarks funds specifically for the pool.
York asked rhetorically why the ordinance couldn’t have gone to a public vote, saying he’s frustrated with the idea that he has to make the decision for the more than 3,000 residents in the city. The idea that the city could regulate necessary services, wondering where the line should be drawn. Commissioner Jerry Chaon echoed by commenting on the monopolization of services.
Commissioner Tyler Larson briefly stated he’d like to see more numbers before making “an uninformed decision.” Lundstrom said the garbage option avoided raising taxes, saying it’s a good idea and that the ordinance could always be rescinded before it takes effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
Chaon motioned for the ordinance’s first reading, which did not require a vote from the body. The ordinance is expected to return to the commission for a second reading on June 5, where another period of public comment is required.