News and notes from around town:
• A major discussion on the future of the city’s trash service is beginning to take shape at Lawrence City Hall. One word is sure to be mentioned frequently: Carts. A new report by city staff members spells out three options for the city’s residential trash service. Two of the three options involve residents being required to rent plastic trash carts rather than using bags or traditional trash cans. The move to carts would allow the city to begin using fully automated trash trucks — possibly the kind with a robotic-like arm that is controlled by the truck’s driver.
Fully automated trucks also will create a major discussion about city jobs. Most fully automated truck systems require only a driver. Currently, most city trash trucks operate with a crew of two to three people. The report, though, does highlight one major problem with the use of fully automated trucks throughout Lawrence — parking. The reports suggests on-street parking practices would have to be changed in many neighborhoods in order for fully automated trucks to work. The report offers a second option of fully automated trucks in many areas of the city but more traditional trash trucks in other neighborhoods where on-street parking is critical.
The report also gives a glimpse at how a cart system may look. The city has investigated three sizes of carts: 35 gallon, 65 gallon and 95 gallon. Theoretically, people who rent a 35 gallon cart would be charged less than people who rent a 95 gallon cart. That has been a goal of many members of the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board, who believe people who produce less trash should pay a lower fee.
The report does not go into any detail on how the city could privatize its trash service, but that’s an option commissioners have said may be discussed.
There’s no word yet on when the City Commission will begin discussing the report’s options. Meetings with neighborhood groups and other stakeholder groups are expected. But expect action sooner rather than later because several current commissioners likely will want to tackle this issue before the April election.
• The report also discusses options for curbside recycling in the city. On that issue, commissioners likely will have to decide whether to allow curbside recycling to be done by the private sector — including trash giant Deffenbaugh Industries — or to make curbside recycling a city service. If the city decides to run its own curbside recycling service, figuring out how to handle the collected recyclables will be a big issue. The report says the city could build its own material recovery facility, which would allow the city to process the recyclables and then sell them on the open market. A second option is for the city to build a transfer station, which would allow recyclables to be consolidated and loaded into semi-trucks that would take the material to a privately owned processing facility. A third option would be for sanitation crews to drive their trucks directly to a privately operated processing center. Currently, the closest processing center is 35 miles away in Kansas City. Commissioners likely will ask for more information related to costs for each of those options.
• Lawrence residents likely will get a chance to weigh in on a host of topics as part of a formal city survey. Staff members are distributing a request for proposals for a new Citizen Survey. The city last conducted a scientific survey of the populace in 2007. The city’s current budget has $30,000 in it to conduct a survey. Proposals from survey firms are expected to be received by the end of the year. The 2007 survey found 72 percent of citizens were satisfied with the overall quality of city services. Services that ranked high included: fire; trash and yardwaste; parks and recreation; police, and water and sewer. Services that ranked low included: maintenance of streets and infrastructure; management of traffic flow and congestion; and planning and development services. The full survey results can be found here.
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