FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Fort Wayne City Councilman Russ Jehl wants to use a portion of American Rescue Plan Act funds to offset an upcoming rate hike when a new solid waste provider takes over next month.

Jehl, R-2nd, announced his proposal at a press conference Tuesday.

His plan calls for taking $8 million from the $51 million of ARPA funds the city has at its disposal to wipe out the incoming $2.80 difference between what Red River charges the city per household and what GFL Environmental will charge the city per household.

Here is how the rates currently look:

COMPANYMONTHLY RATE PER HOUSHOLD WHAT YOU PAY ON YOUR UTILITY BILL
Red River$7.95$12.00
GFL$10.75???

The monthly rate you pay isn’t just based on trash and recycling pickup. According to city spokesman John Perlich, other factors included are:

  • Disposal of garbage at landfill
  • Processing of recycling at the material recovery facility
  • Cost of garbage and recycling bins including necessary maintenance and replacement (which are owned by the city and provided to residents to store their garbage/recycling until collection)
  • Bulk pickup and disposal
  • Leaf pickup and disposal
  • Neighborhood cleanups
  • Supplementing of household hazardous waste program
  • Administration of all of the above
  • Salaries

“The easy part of the trash mess is complete, hiring a competent service provider,” said Jehl in a statement. “The hard part now begins – paying for it.”

Councilman Russ Jehl at a press conference Friday where he proposed to use ARPA funds for a trash haul rate hike.

Jehl called the past solid waste contract with Red River a failure. That contract has ended with two-and-a-half years remaining amid complaints about pickups and missed days. Now, GFL takes over with a cost difference of roughly $8 million, according to Jehl.

Using $8 million of ARPA funds for the next two and a half years would save city residents from a rate hike, according to Jehl.

“The funds provide a simple but effective opportunity to make things right for the ratepayer going forward,” Jehl said.

Jehl said his plan “starkly contrasts” with proposals being discussed by the city administration. He claimed the city’s plan centers around using ARPA funds for a “Solid Waste bailout” and paying for GFL/bulk pickup through rate increases.

Jehl told WANE 15 that the city is considering raising the monthly charge for ratepayers to as much as $6 more than the current $12, and he said the “bailout” would be to cover the city’s Solid Waste Department being $3 million in the red.

In the past, Jehl has taken the city’s Solid Waste Department to task. In 2020, he introduced a resolution stating no confidence vote in the department’s leadership and claimed the solid waste fund was solvent with a $400,000 balance.

The fund is anticipated to be $4 million in the red by the end of the year, according to Jehl.

“As bad as the bankrupt Red River’s finances are, the finances of Fort Wayne’s Solid Waste Department are even worse,” Jehl said in a statement. “ARPA funds should be used to make things right on behalf of the longsuffering Fort Wayne ratepayer, not for the bailout of the Solid Waste Department.”

In response to Jehl’s press conference, city spokesman John Perlich sent out the following statement:

“Solid waste rates continue to be evaluated. Discussions have been ongoing and will continue. We know that we won’t be able to continue to charge just $12 per month for all solid waste-related activities, nor will we set the rates so we overcharge our customers. Our goal is to keep costs as low as possible. Rates have remained so low over the past number of years due to not adjusting rates with Red River because of the poor service being provided, thus the impact that’s been experienced by the Solid Waste Department budget. The possible utilization of some of the ARPA funds to assist our ratepayers isn’t new. That’s been discussed publicly by the Mayor’s office and other members of City Council prior to today’s news conference. The City Administration and City Council will work collaboratively to determine the best path forward.”