“I cannot understand the reasoning behind charging for garbage pickup on a vacant lot,” said Seago, who owns a grassy lot on Fenwick Street downtown. “There’s no building, there are no people, there’s no garbage, there’s no pickup – period... It’s paying for something that’s not even there.”
Seago is just one of several property owners to speak out against the new fee, which appeared on last month’s estimated tax bills sent to every property owner. The charges won’t be due until they appear on tax bills mailed later this year.
Members of the Augusta Commission, set to discuss the fee and other waste collection changes Tuesday, have said they don’t recall approving the vacant lot charge, although it was included among numerous other changes in a sweeping solid-waste resolution signed by the mayor last year.
Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson said he expects the vacant lot fee to generate about $1.3 million in new revenue from 11,800 vacant parcels upon which it will be assessed, according to the agenda item.
Johnson said eliminating the fee also would cut into projected revenue to be paid to Augusta’s small haulers who previously handled much city garbage collection. Working as subcontractors, several of the haulers now perform vacant-lot cleanup and yard-waste collection.
Though garbage, including Johnson’s proposal to reinstitute curbside tire collection and the increased fee for properties inside the old city limits, is expected to highlight Tuesday’s regular 2 p.m. commission meeting, commissioners have several other items of business on the agenda.