Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Is Tire Disposal Fee Causing Illegal Dumping?

Council wants data, raises concerns.

By - Jan 31st, 2020 10:16 am
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Tires. (CC0 Public Domain)

Tires. (CC0 Public Domain)

Has a new fee on tire and television disposal at city drop off centers led to an increase in illegal dumping?

“I think some of us have anecdotally observed that,” said Alderman Robert Bauman, as the Department of Public Works began a presentation on its findings.

Starting in September, DPW instituted a new fee structure that includes charging $3 per tire and $5 per television. Drop-off loads of less than one cubic yard are free, with prices ranging for $20 to $90 for larger loads. Yard waste is free up to six cubic yards.

The change legalized city contractors use of the drop off centers, while attempting to keep most residential drop-offs free.

“We’re only trying to have a fee on what’s going to the landfill,” said Meyers. He said almost 50 percent of what is dropped off is recycled.

But what impact are those new fees having? “It’s too early to draw any conclusions at this point,” said DPW sanitation services manager Rick Meyers. Council members remain skeptical.

The data presented by Meyers, which compares September through December 2018 versus the same period in 2019, shows a decrease of 18 percent in total tonnage dropped off. Garbage and construction material was down 16 percent, grass and brush down 23 percent and freon appliances down two percent. But scrap metal, for which a fee is never charged, is also down 15 percent.

The alarming data comes for the items with new fees. Tire collection is down 44 percent by weight (132 tons) and televisions are down 39 percent (144 tons).

“They’ve gotta go somewhere,” said Bauman. “That’s the problem.”

Reports of illegal dumping went up in September versus 2018 levels, but back down in October and November, and up again in December. Combined, reports went up three percent.

Meyers said the fees for tires offset the $2.50 to $3 the city spends to dispose of each tire. Ald. Nik Kovac said the city is still lower than the $5 his mechanic charges to dispose of tires. Meyers said virtually all municipalities now charge for tire drop off because of rising disposal costs.

But council members raised concerns that collecting that fee could result in higher costs from illegal dumping.

“What’s the cost to the city of picking up one of these tires dumped illegally?” asked Ald. Michael Murphy. He asked for DPW to prepare a report.

Ald. Cavalier Johnson suggested that anecdotally he’s seeing more televisions on city streets.

“That’s the type of thing we’re going to be looking at closely,” said Meyers.

Bauman and Kovac would also like them to look at something else – a tire bounty. Under Bauman’s proposal, the city would pay a small fee for each tire in an effort to reduce the amount of illegal dumping.

Revenue is up substantially, growing 119 percent year-over-year since the new fee structure was implemented. An additional $346,140 was generated through the end of 2019. Meyers said one of the things the city could look at doing is opening another drop off center.

If the city needs help on where to put a new facility, it can look to Meyer’s report. A heat map of illegal dumping on city-owned property reaches a clear peak near W. Locust St. between N. 13th St. and N. 27th St.

“We’ll revisit this in a couple months,” said Bauman.

Illegal dumping map. Image from the Department of Public Works.

Illegal dumping map. Image from the Department of Public Works.

Fighting Illegal Dumping

The city’s effort to fight illegal dumping has found a clear winner: solar-powered Ring cameras.

The cameras, made by an Amazon subsidiary, record high definition video, are motion activated, can be monitored from a smart phone and can be mounted virtually anywhere.

“That’s all of our successful prosecutions almost,” said Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) manager Don Schaewe of the cameras. Twenty-seven citations were issued in 2019 said the manager, with 14 guilty verdicts, one not guilty ruling and 12 pending cases. “It all goes to how good of a case you can make.” The city recently launched a cash rewards program to encourage more citizens to report illegal dumping.

Schaewe said in discussions with homeowners, the benefits of the $200 camera in an alley that is targeted for illegal dumping becomes clear. “That’s where we’re really directing our outreach efforts.”

“Why aren’t we putting up cameras?” asked Murphy. “That’s a good question for the Department of City Development,” said Meyers.

Bauman called for any DCD representatives at the meeting to come forward from the hallway, but no one appeared.

“You’re going to see a lot of interesting stuff on those cameras,” said Bauman. He warned that a proposal by Near West Side Partners to install more Ring cameras drew opposition.

Civil rights advocacy groups have raised concerns that law enforcement agencies can enter into partnerships with Ring to use the camera footage without a warrant. Cameras owners also have to pay a fee for video storage.

Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs said the city used to have cameras to track graffiti and other vandalism, but she wasn’t aware of their current status. Schaewe said the new technology is a significant improvement.

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Related Legislation: File 191419

Categories: City Hall

2 thoughts on “City Hall: Is Tire Disposal Fee Causing Illegal Dumping?”

  1. Mark Nicolini says:

    The charges make good sense from a public finance point of view, i.e., “polluter pays.” Unfortunately, some people who live in Milwaukee will, for whatever reasons, go to some lengths to avoid paying their fair share. The alternatives cited in the report merit consideration.

  2. TransitRider says:

    The solution is to charge the $3 fee when a tire is sold (and accept worn tires at no charge). The fee must be state-wide and the money raised used to re-imburse cities and counties who accept used tires.

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