The Times-Tribune

Lawsuit: Justify trash fee or reduce it

Man says he tried to meet with city officials before filing suit

- BY JIM LOCKWOOD

STAFF WRITER Before suing Scranton last week over its $300 annual garbage fee, Adam Guiffrida wanted to try to work out an alternativ­e.

On Dec. 8, the city’s law department told his attorney to advocate his position with city council or any other way he deemed appropriat­e, Mr. Guiffrida said this week in a phone interview.

Mr. Guiffrida filed a classactio­n lawsuit on Thursday, claiming the city has been improperly setting its annual trash fee at a too-high $300 since 2014, to generate millions of extra dollars for city coffers each year.

“I’ve been reaching out to the city for over two months to discuss it. They would not even meet with me,” Mr. Guiffrida said.

City Solicitor Jason Shrive declined to comment, saying the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit, but he also typically does not comment on pending litigation.

Mr. Guiffrida also said he waited until after Scranton enacted its 2017 budget to file the trash fee lawsuit. Mayor Bill Courtright’s budget, adopted by council on Dec. 8, continues the $300 trash fee and does not raise property taxes. Mr. Guiffrida said he waited so the city could not possibly use a trash fee lawsuit as justificat­ion for raising property taxes.

“I didn’t want that to happen. I’m definitely not looking for any more tax increases,” he said.

A landlord, Mr. Guiffrida previously sued the city in 2015 over its tripling of rental registrati­on fees in 2014. That pending class-action lawsuit forced the city to reduce rental registrati­on fees and scrap inspection­s, though refunds of excess fees remain unresolved and outstandin­g, he said.

His trash fee lawsuit will follow the same strategy: make the city justify the $300 trash fee as fair, or force

its reduction.

The city raised the garbage fee for 2014 from $178 to $300. The lawsuit claims the trash collection fee is supposed to only cover costs of pickup, but has generated several millions more during the past three years.

The trash fee issue has cropped up periodical­ly since the big fee hike in 2014. Earlier this year, the administra­tion sought assistance from the state for a study of the actual cost of garbage collection and best way to go forward. Options for review would include ramping up perenniall­y low recycling amounts, including of yard waste, and considerin­g a perbag fee to induce residents to recycle more. This presumably would lead to less trash sent to the landfill and a reduction in tipping-fee costs, and the city hopes this review takes place during the first half of 2017, officials have said.

Mr. Guiffrida thinks that the city’s former $178 annual garbage fee also was probably too high, and suing the city for an accounting is the only way to find out.

“The city will have to do their own analysis (of trash pickup costs) in court,” he said.

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