Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2019

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Las Vegas approves trash bill surcharge to clean up streets

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The Las Vegas City Council has approved a surcharge on trash bills to help clean up public areas and support other environmental measures.

Las Vegas residents will see their trash bills increase by about 78 cents per month starting this fall as part of a new effort to clean city streets and enhance public safety.

The City Council approved a resolution Wednesday to establish a fund to address sanitation concerns and remove trash and debris in Las Vegas through a surcharge of no more than 5% imposed on residential trash bills. The surcharge will go into effect in October.

Karen Duddlesten, Las Vegas’ chief community services officer, said the effort would address growing concerns about trash, debris and human waste in public spaces, which pose hazards for pedestrians and vehicles and strain infrastructure.

“Across the city, we’re seeing increasing environmental and health cleanup issues,” Duddlesten said. “We’re seeing them on our streets, vacant lots and in public rights of way, including parks, storm drains, trails and alleys.”

The city has removed approximately 3,000 tons of dumped debris this year, an effort that cost $250,000 and 28,000 hours of labor, Duddlesten said.

The surcharge is expected to raise more than $3 million by fiscal year 2020 and more than $4 million by fiscal year 2021. That money could go toward cleaning areas in and around the city’s Homeless Courtyard, improving security in public parks and cleaning up of trails, parks and other public spaces, among other programs.

The resolution passed 6-1, with Councilman Stavros Anthony dissenting. Anthony said he opposed the surcharge because he believed the public had not been adequately briefed on it. No residents commented on the resolution at Wednesday’s meeting.

“We need to do some outreach to residents to let them know we’re interested in raising their trash bill by (78 cents) a month, and this is what we’re specifically going to spend it on, and be very clear about that, before I can vote for this,” Anthony said.

Other councilors described the measure as a necessary way to address an increasingly dire problem affecting many parts of the city. Ward 5 Councilman Cedric Crear said the city risked a public health crisis if it didn’t take action to remove debris and human waste, which some attribute to the city’s homeless population.

He noted that Los Angeles had faced public health crises such as rat infestations and disease outbreaks in and surrounding Skid Row, the downtown Los Angeles neighborhood known for its homeless population.

“We cannot get there,” Crear said.

Ward 1 Councilman Brian Knudsen said he supported the measure as an immediate, temporary fix to addressing “some really hard issues” in the city.

“My hope is that as a city we spend quite a bit more time looking at the systemic issues and challenges that plague our community and result in homelessness,” Knudsen said.