Bit by bit, a city-appointed task force is getting closer to making recommendations that will change much about trash in Lawrence, from how residents must set it out at the curb to the number of city employees needed to collect it.
“I think we’re producing something that is very promising for the future,” Mayor Aron Cromwell said after Monday’s meeting of the Solid Waste Task Force. “The changes that we’re talking about will be what will help us keep costs down for the future.”
The task force clarified several positions on Monday, although it still did not vote on any formal recommendations. The group hopes to do that by mid-January, after which the report will be turned over to the City Commission for final action.
But here’s a look at how some of the key recommendations are shaping up:
• Cromwell, who is chairman of the task force, suggested any new trash service should cost no more than $19 per month. Currently, residential trash service costs about $15 per month, but the new service would include weekly curbside recycling.
• Residents would be provided by the city with two carts that they would be expected to use. One cart would be for trash and the other would be for recycling.
• Task force members envision that residents would be able to choose from two cart sizes — perhaps a 90-gallon cart or a 65-gallon cart. If people choose the smaller cart, they would receive a slight reduction of the standard trash rate.
“We are trying to incentivize people to throw away less trash,” Cromwell said.
• The task force reviewed policies from other communities that require residents to pay a price for extra bags of trash that cannot fit into the carts. But Cromwell and others balked at that system. Instead, Cromwell suggested that the city come up with a policy that allows residents to occasionally have extra bags of trash that do fit into the trash cart. The city would reserve the right to charge residents
for excessive amounts of trash or to require customers to upgrade to a larger cart.
• Task force members were told by city staffers that the carts are critical for a future service because they will increase the ability of the city to use more automated trucks. More automation is expected to decrease workplace injuries and reduce worker compensation claims to the point that the carts will pay for themselves, Cromwell said.
But Cromwell confirmed after the meeting that carts also are expected to eventually reduce the number of city employees needed to collect the trash. Several communities that use the carts operate trucks that require only a driver. The city’s current system requires a driver and generally two loaders. But City Manager David Corliss said he did not expect increased automation would necessitate the need for layoffs.
“We would find a way to do it through attrition,” Corliss said.
The task force is expected to meet again on Jan. 5 and may vote to approve a set of recommendations at its Jan. 19 meeting.