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Long Beach sanitation bill to increase in July

Long Beach residents will see a hike in their July sanitation bill as the city looks to recover the rising cost of hauling the city's garbage.

The City Council Tuesday passed the increase from $325 to $475, the first in five years, as part of a vote on a series of items.

Revenue from sanitation fees, roughly $5.3 million for the last fiscal year, lagged behind the total cost to provide the service, which topped $7.5 million, officials said. "We're just looking to cover our costs," Theofan said.

Residential garbage is now collected three days a week.

The move came as the council set dates for hearings to consider setting fees for a new centralized fire alarm system, and raising costs for the fire department's emergency ambulance services. In the past month, the council has raised water rates and passed a budget with a 3.16 percent tax levy increase.

Long Beach is not alone in weighing fee hikes.

The Town of Brookhaven, struggling with decreased mortgage tax receipts, is poised to raise a range of fees and fines - from building permits to illegal parking. At the Long Beach meeting, Councilman Mike Fagen, who voted no on the block vote along with Councilman Len Torres, questioned the need to burden financially-strapped taxpayers with higher fees in light of the sanitation department's $2 million surplus.

"You're asking them to fork over a 45-percent increase for a department that looks like it's making money," Fagen said. Theofan countered that the full cost of disposing of residential trash is spread out over various departments and can't be assessed properly by analyzing the sanitation figures alone.

Councilman John McLaughlin, who voted yes with Councilwoman Mona Goodman and Council president Thomas Sofield Jr., said the city should retool its charges for commercial garbage disposal, which officials said was ongoing. "If commercial had private carters, they'd be paying four to five times what they're paying now," he said.

Some residents said the city should spread the increase over several years to mitigate the economic impact, while others advocated the city cut costs by scaling back the service.

"I guess I'm one of those people that feels this is a big increase for me," said resident Sarah Nicholas, 56.

Also, the council raised the cost to enter Ocean Beach from $10 to $12 for those 13 and over.

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