East Ridge City Council members voted to exempt undeveloped lots from the city's new sanitation fee Thursday night, despite some concern that the lost revenue could mean the city won't meet its sanitation budget.
The ordinance was passed unanimously with no discussion.
Dozens of citizens approached the council after the special sanitation fee of $180 for residential lots and $240 for commercial lots was introduced earlier this year when Tennessee American Water stopped attaching residents' garbage fees to their water bills.
The fee originally was applied to all property parcels and included vacant and undeveloped lots. East Ridge residents balked when asked to pay the fee on such properties that don't typically use the city's garbage service.
The new ordinance exempts all undeveloped commercial and residential lots from the fee. The exemption will cost the city between $150,000 and $200,000 in expected revenue, City Manager Tim Gobble said.
The city needs to collect $1.4 million to pay for the sanitation program and passing this exemption means the city will cut it close, Gobble said.
The city will not send out a new bill to citizens with vacant lots, Gobble said, but those citizens are not required to pay the fee and will not be penalized for not paying.