Municipalities to pay $3,000
By Bert Lehman
The Clintonville Area Waste Services (CAWS) Commission approved a 2024 budget that includes a subsidy of $9,000 to be split equally between the city of Clintonville and the towns of Larrabee and Matteson.
The commission approved the budget by a 4-2 vote when it met Oct. 11. Commission members Pete Sasse and Dave Viergutz, who both represent the town of Larrabee, voted against the budget.
The budget puts into question the future of Larrabee in the CAWS agreement. At the two previous CAWS meetings, Lynn Jepson, Larrabee’s town chair, said if the commission required municipalities to pay a subsidy, Larrabee would withdraw from CAWS.
In addition, Sharon Pingel, town clerk for Larrabee, sent a letter to the city of Clintonville on Oct. 3, advising the city that Larrabee would “seriously consider withdrawing” from the CAWS agreement if a subsidy were required. She stated the majority of Larrabee residents have curbside pickup for garbage and recycling.
“We feel we are doing a disservice to our residents by continuing to participate in the CAWS agreement while our residents are paying for curbside garbage pickup,” Pingel stated in the letter.
She added, “Please consider this letter expressing our desire to withdraw from the CAWS Agreement.”
If Larrabee withdraw sfrom CAWS, it would have to request withdrawal, and then wait 18 months for it to be official. This means Larrabee would still have to pay the subsidy requested for the 2024 budget.
During public comments at the CAWS Commission meeting, several Larrabee residents spoke in support of Larrabee staying in the CAWS agreement. Several of these same residents shared the same message at the Oct. 10 Clintonville Common Council meeting.
At the beginning of the budget discussion, CAWS Commission Chair Greg Rose, who represents Clintonville, said he thought the commission would be looking at higher subsidies.
“But we’ve been able to come up with figures that look much more favorable than a really high subsidy,” Rose said.
The commission was presented with three budget options. One budget option included no subsidy, while another budget option included a subsidy of $13,000 to be divided equally between the city and the towns. The final budget option included a “soft” subsidy of $9,000 divided between the three municipalities.
Rose said he came up with the idea of the soft subsidy after speaking with Jepson about what Larrabee would do if it pulls out of the CAWS agreement.
Rose said Jepson told him Larrabee would hire a private hauler for garbage and recycling and designate a couple days a year for large garbage items to be picked up.
Assuming the township is charged extra for the collection days for large garbage items, that extra charge may be close to the $3,000 amount of the soft subsidy, Rose said.
That may entice the town to stay in the CAWS agreement, Rose added.
“That’s why I came up with the $3,000 figure, it wasn’t as steep as the full subsidy, and, in my mind, it might be something that Larrabee might be willing to go with,” Rose said.
Rose added that a subsidy is needed because of the fluctuations of the markets and inflation over the past two years.
“We must adapt to it,” Rose said. “We have to find a way to balance the books eventually. We can’t continue to run in the red (deficit) because we will eventually run out of reserves, so the subsidy could be one potential solution to that.”
The budget option that included the $13,000 subsidy, would see the subsidy split equally between the three municipalities, or $4,333 per municipality. This option included a potential end-of-year surplus of $930.
The budget option with no subsidy included a potential deficit of $9,820.
The budget option with the “soft” subsidy of $3,000 per municipality included a potential deficit of $3,070.
Under the budget scenarios in which a deficit was projected, CAWS would need to use funds from its reserves. Currently, there is around $15,000 in reserves.
“We have it in the bank,” Rose said. “We could go with the no subsidy option and use some reserves up, quite a bit of the reserves up. But my concern there is if we are taking that approach, where does that put us one year from today? We wouldn’t be looking at a soft subsidy at that point anymore.”
Commissioer Dave Viergutz, who represents Larrabee, said charging a subsidy to the municipalities would force people who already pay for a private company to pick up their garbage and recycling, to pay twice.
Rose said he understood that concern, but if CAWS were to close, there would be limited opportunities for residents to get rid of large garbage items.
“Would a couple dollars per person be worth paying for that convenience, is how I look at it,” Rose said.
Rose said he is also concerned what single hauler companies would charge more for their garbage service if CAWS were to close.
“When you go out to bid, they have a monopoly then, because there is nowhere else to take it,” Rose said. “So, they would be free to do what they will because there would be no CAWS for a plan B.”
He added, “I feel that CAWS still has value. I know there’s people out there that use it weekly.”
The presented budget scenarios included an increase in fees for almost everything that can be brought to CAWS. The CAWS Commission approved those increases earlier in the meeting.
Commissioner Pete Sasse, who represents Larrabee, asked Stacy Sonnenberg, who does the accounting for CAWS, if she researched any of the grant options he had sent her.
Sonnenberg said she hadn’t researched the grant options.
“I think it would be something worth exploring before we do this, to see if there is any other money out there available to pick up,” Sasse said.
Sonnenberg said she thought most of the grants available were on the county level.
Sasse said there are grants available for communities across the state.
“It’s an option I think that we should explore, to see how much is available,” Sasse said.
Viergutz said CAWS should be able to “stand on its own without a subsidy.”
He also said that those who use CAWS will complain about the higher fees, but the fees need to be closer to what private haulers are charging.
In response, Rose said he feels that CAWS can support itself if it is managed correctly.
“It had for many years,” Rose said. “We need to adjust to the market.”
Commission member Dan Behnke said he hoped Larrabee would be willing to agree to a “soft” subsidy for one year to see how CAWS does with the increased fees.
Sasse recommended that the commission table the budget discussion until the November meeting. He said that would allow the topic to be discussed at its next township meeting.
Sonnenberg said the contract the municipalities have with CAWS allows the commission to request a subsidy, and the municipalities have to pay it.
Tabling the matter wasn’t an option because the next CAWS Commission meeting was scheduled for after the November Clintonville Common Council meeting, when the city’s 2024 budget will be approved.