Think of them as a unique group of Dumpster divers.
Members of Lawrence’s new Solid Waste Task Force made it clear at their first meeting Thursday that they’re ready to dive headfirst into Lawrence’s biggest trash issue in decades.
The city-appointed task force agreed that it will spend nearly a year meeting to determine whether Lawrence’s trash and recycling systems need major overhauls. Certainly, some on the committee already are leaning that direction.
“I would like to see some dramatic changes and some dramatic improvements at the end of this,” said task force member Daniel Poull, who also serves on the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board.
Items that likely will be on the task force’s agenda include possible privatization of the city’s trash system, a new curbside recycling program, greater automation of the service that could require residents to use special trash carts instead of cans, and new pricing systems that charge people based on how much trash they generate.
But none of those issues got any serious discussion at the Thursday meeting. Instead, task force members introduced themselves and decided that they would meet once every two weeks for the next several months.
They also told city staff members that they would like to take several field trips, including to the landfill, to a special recycling collection facility in Kansas City, and to follow city trash workers as they do their jobs. City Manager David Corliss said it likely will be possible to have some of the task force members ride on the back of the trucks and collect trash to better understand the service.
The task force also expressed interest in holding a special meeting in the next few months to give residents an opportunity to express what they think ought to be done with the trash service.
“I think it will be important to have a listening meeting where we do a really good job of advertising it to the public because we really want to hear what they have to say,” Corliss said.
City Commissioner Aron Cromwell, who is serving as chairman of the task force, said he envisions the task force spending several months learning about the current solid waste operations of the city, then spending several months discussing options for improving the service, and then finalizing the recommendations by “doing a reality check” to make sure all recommendations are financially feasible.
“We have to be responsible to the citizens of Lawrence, and that means whatever we do has to be done in a very economical way,” Cromwell said.
The task force is schedule to deliver a set of recommendations to city commissioners by March 1, 2012. City commissioners will have the final authority for approving any changes to the trash system.
The task force has 11 members. In addition to Cromwell and Poull, they are:
• William Beeson, a loader for the city’s sanitation department
• Suzi Cammon, a Lawrence resident who has been active in environmental issues at schools
• Joe Harkins, a retired member of the Kansas Corporation Commission and former secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment
• Sam Porritt, a city resident interested in environmental issues
• Ralph Reed, a Lawrence resident interested in the city’s trash system
• Charlie Sedlock, a Lawrence resident and an executive with the city’s landfill provider
• Jeff Severin, director of Kansas University’s sustainability office
• Christine Tomlin, a Lawrence educator who said she volunteered to serve on the task force because she loves the city’s current trash service
• Dan Wethington, an engineer at Lawrence’s Bartlett & West