A controversial amendment to Summit Hill's garbage ordinance is likely going to be amended.
Exemptions are permitted from the annual $220 fee if a property is vacant for at least six months under the amendment, which went into effect this year.
So far over 60 properties have been approved for the exemption this year, including four at this week's meeting of the council. Two of this week's exemptions were approved by 6-1 votes of the council, with Michael Alabovitz casting "no" votes.
It was noted that beginning in 2011, exemptions will be permitted only once a year. Anyone presently having an exemption must re-apply by January 1.
Every month since the ordinance was amended to allow the exemptions there have been requests from property owners to be placed on the list. When four more names were requested this week, councilman Michael Kokinda commented, "It is not going to be like this next year," adding, "This is just ridiculous."
It was noted that the trash collectors are given a list of the properties and instructed not to pick-up trash at the exempted properties.
Several council members expressed an interest in rescinding the exemption amendment. Mayor Paul McArdle said property owners must pay taxes on their parcels whether occupied or not.
One of the things which led to the concerns over the exemptions is that during 2010, sanitation income for the year amounted to nearly $70,000 less than was budgeted.
The budget is based on the fact that garbage rates in the borough equal the amount paid to the trash collector. The contract with the trash collector, Tamaqua Transfer and Recycling, calls for Summit Hill to subtract the amount of individual exemptions from the rate to with the collector.
Last month, Larry Wittig, president of Tamaqua Transfer and Recycling, warned the council that the amendment as presently exists could lead to higher collection rates for residents in the future.
"It's supposed to be a wash," said Council President Mike Weber.
Delinquents might be one of the reason for the shortage in the budgeted amount, said Kira Michalik, the borough's treasurer.
When residents get delinquent, the borough can file charges against them at the office of a district magistrate. Usually the magistrate orders the payment of the arrearages, but sometimes in very small increments.
The council will have budget discussions at a special meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in the borough hall.