October 23rd, 2009 By BETH SLOVIC | News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall

Transportation Bureau May Shift Cost of Leaf Pickup to Garbage Bill

fall leaves
Mayor Sam Adams is preparing Portlanders to accept a new fee on their garbage bills to pay for leaf pickup -- a service traditionally paid for with the general transportation operating budget of Portland's Bureau of Transportation.

Meantime, the Public Utility Review Board, a volunteer group that advises City Council, has already raised questions about the proposed surcharge, which could go into effect after the city adopts its 2010 budget this summer.

"We are very concerned about the utilities being used as a cash cow for other city services," says PURB member David Johnson. "That's not fair to ratepayers."

At 12:30 pm today, Adams' office sent out a news release about leaf pickup that didn't mention this surcharge, which was brought to City Council's attention during a contentious PURB work session Tuesday morning. (Adams was in Vancouver, British Columbia, at a sustainability conference that morning. But two of the bureaus he manages are responsible for the proposal.)

Instead Adams' news release today announces a bit of good news: that the city is re-instituting limited "leaf depots" this year for Portlanders to drop off yard debris. The four locations will accept leaves in November for nominal fees -- $5 per car load or $10 per truck. That surprise Friday afternoon announcement is then tempered with the following bad news [emphasis mine]:
Although limited leaf drop-off services will be provided this year, Mayor Adams is advising Portlanders to be prepared for depots to be cut in the future. He explained that even with a revised fee schedule this year, the City does not anticipate recovering all of this year's operating costs for the depots. Leaf pickup was ranked near the bottom of priorities when Portlanders were asked to rank Transportation services, a factor considered by the Bureau's Budget Advisory Committee in considering which services to recommend scaling back or cutting.

The new surcharge would be managed by Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability but the money would be redirected to the Bureau of Transportation. Adams oversees both bureaus.

A spokesman for the mayor was not immediately available for comment.
 
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