Home Hays County Utility fee ordinance for city beautification under review

Utility fee ordinance for city beautification under review

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Photo by: Lara Dietrich | Staff Photographer
The Keep San Marcos Beautiful program has placed signs along the river indicating the preferred destination for waste products.

A proposal to implement an additional utility fee for citizens and business owners was made at the Sept. 1 city council meeting.

Amy Kirwin, coordinator for Keep San Marcos Beautiful, said the money collected through the fee would provide extra funding for environmental projects.

“Keep San Marcos Beautiful is a great program which helps manage environmentally friendly projects and helps coordinate countless cleanup initiatives in the city of San Marcos,” Kirwin said.

If approved by city council, the additional charge would be enforced starting next January.

Kirwin said businesses would be required to pay $5 toward the bill while residents would only be charged $1 if the utility fee was implemented.

“I believe this proposition would be a great and well deserved one for the city of San Marcos,” Kirwin said. “City council has been discussing beautification for years and they haven’t really put very much money behind it.”

The initiative began in 2009, but was never a recurring item on the city budget until last year, she said.

“Last year, city council gave Keep San Marcos Beautiful $20,000 to help with the project,” Kirwin said. “It was clear that this was not enough to accommodate all of the beautification initiatives that needed to be done in San Marcos.”

After the proposal was made, city council members directed Kirwin to conduct research and form a detailed plan about how the fee would be implemented by the city.

The Mural Arts Commission, a program encouraging the creation of mural paintings instead of graffiti, would receive funding from the fee as well, Kirwin said.

“Everything is still currently in the works,” Kirwin said. “We have to figure out how we will assess these fees and then we will look further on expanding other programs with this fee.”

Kirwin said her experience in other cities inspired her to propose the bill.

She said other cities like Austin and Fort Worth utilize similar “clean community fees.”

“I was just at a conference in Fort Worth and was amazed at how clean the city was,” Kirwin said. “The whole city was clear of litter and the atmosphere there felt very inviting to me.”

Memi Cardenas, public information specialist at Austin Resource Recovery, said every Austin citizen pays an extra $7.48 utility fee.

The money collected through Austin’s utility fee funds environmental programs such as the Resource Recovery Center and citywide initiatives promoting litter-abatement and street sweeping, Cardenas said.

Cardenas said the fee is a necessity and shared responsibility amongst Austin residents.

“This fee is such a small price to pay for a big outcome,” said Oscar Garza, environmental compliance specialist in the city of Austin. “I think implementing this fee would be a positive move for any community.”

Hannah Schneiderman, recreational administration senior, said she has been involved with Keep San Marcos Beautiful and supports the proposal of the fee.

Schneiderman, a resident of the Cedar Grove apartment complex, said she is aware litter is commonplace in the streets and the parking lots of apartment complexes.

“If you pull into our street right now near Craddock, the amount of unnecessary trash is just awful,” Schneiderman said. “It’s like someone’s whole living room is practically in the middle of the street.”

Schneiderman said the fee would be a positive change for the city.

“I love San Marcos so much and I want to see its beauty exemplified,” Schneiderman said. “If I can go to the river and not have to dodge cans or crude language spray painted on random places, then this proposal is so worth it.”

Follow Clayton Kelley on Twitter at @Claytonkelley.