Archive for Saturday, December 24, 2011

Trash tops list of issues for city commissioners to tackle in 2012

Members of the city's Solid Waste Task Force follow a trash truck on Villo Woods Court, Tuesday, May 17, 2011. The task force took a tour of Lawrence's trash and recycling processes to learn more about solid waste operations.

Members of the city's Solid Waste Task Force follow a trash truck on Villo Woods Court, Tuesday, May 17, 2011. The task force took a tour of Lawrence's trash and recycling processes to learn more about solid waste operations.

December 24, 2011


Trash was supposed to be the topic of the year at Lawrence City Hall in 2011. Come to find out, one year is not enough.

Instead, 2011 was a warm-up for a host of big decisions that city commissioners likely will be asked to make in 2012 about the future of trash and recycling in Lawrence.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of discussion about trash in the first quarter of 2012,” said City Commissioner Bob Schumm, who if tradition holds will move up from his vice mayor spot to become mayor in April. “I think by the end of the first quarter, we’re going to have the trash issue resolved.”

But a decision won’t come without a lot of hand-wringing. Since a city-appointed Solid Waste Task Force began work in April, a lot of talk has centered on requiring Lawrence households to use a special plastic trash cart instead of standard bags or trash cans.

Task force members have heard plenty of questions from residents about why the city wants to change their weekly routine.

“There are a lot of good questions out there, but I think we’ll end up with a lot of good answers,” said Mayor Aron Cromwell, who is chairman of the Solid Waste Task Force. “It will be powerful to talk about the amount of money we can save by doing this.”

Cromwell said the task force has seen evidence in other communities where the plastic carts can cut operational costs by increasing the amount of automation. In some communities — Olathe and Eudora are both nearby examples — trucks are operated by single driver controlling a robotic arm. In Lawrence, most trash trucks have a crew of three people.

Thus far, Cromwell has indicated the city would likely cut workforce totals through attrition rather than layoffs if the city moves to a more automated fleet. In addition, Cromwell is expecting savings from reduced workers’ compensation costs because employees have to do less lifting with a cart system.

Commissioners also are expected to tackle the subject of curbside recycling. Cromwell said he expects one of the commission’s first decisions will be whether to accept bids from private companies to operate a citywide curbside recycling program. The city also will have to decide whether to make the curbside program a mandatory pay system, meaning that every resident would pay for the service regardless of whether they choose to set out recycling each week.

Other issues that are expected to be major items at Lawrence City Hall in 2012 include:

• Development of the former Farmland Industries site. Cleanup of the old buildings and structures at the former fertilizer plant in eastern Lawrence is largely complete. Now city commissioners said they’ll start a master planning process to determine precisely how they want to use the more than 400-acre site for an industrial park and open space.

The city already has received a grant to study how alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar and geothermal, can be used to power activities at the site.

“It has a tremendous opportunity to be a really unique asset for us,” Schumm said.

City Manager David Corliss said he also expects 2012 to be the year that the city begins building a new entrance to the park off Kansas Highway 10 and building a new frontage road that connects the property with the adjacent East Hills Business Park.

“For quite a while now we’ve been saying this project has more attorneys than shovels,” Corliss said. “We want to rotate that around in 2012.”

• Expansion of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt. Construction is expected to begin in the latter half of 2012 on a $19 million, voter-approved expansion of the downtown library.

Many of the design decisions on the project have been made, but commissioners have a major one remaining: parking. The project currently calls for a parking garage for about 250 cars. But commissioners have directed architects to draw up a design that would allow another level of parking to be added to the garage, depending on construction costs. Commissioners will make the decision on whether to add another level — about 75 spaces — to the garage when construction bids are received.

• Planning for a west Lawrence recreation center. Commissioners aren’t expecting 2012 to be the year construction begins on a new recreation center. Rather, it may be the year when commissioners find out if the community is really behind the project.

City officials have been in discussions with the nonprofit foundation of Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self about a $1 million donation for the project.

But several commissioners have said they would like to see about $3 million in private donations for a new center, which likely would cost about $15 million.

Commissioners have directed staff to begin negotiation with private fundraising firms to determine the feasibility of a capital campaign for the project.

The city also plans to hire an architect to create more precise cost estimates and evaluate several potential sites for the center.

Commissioners, though, aren’t making any promises about where the project will stand at the end of 2012.

“I don’t know if we’re going to get there in 2012 or not,” Schumm said. “I’m really concerned about coming up with the $3 million in private money we’ve talked about. I think I would be hard-pressed to move forward without having some significant matching money.”


Jonathan Fox 6 years ago

I don't mind the plastic rolly carts for trash, they make it a lot easier on the trash guys and their really cheap to have.

I don't mind having 3 crew trash trucks, it's good honest work, in a town that work is hard to come by, I don't care how the crews get smaller, I say keep the jobs.

I also say that paying for curbside recycling by residents is a must. Fuel costs are high, otherwise, take it to walmart or somewhere yourself. It's not that hard. My taxes should not be payed so others who are too lazy to take their recycling themselves can leave it at the curb.

Please do not build any (zero, 0) residential of any kind on the old farmland site. Simply because we don't need it, want it, let alone a terrible location for it. I'm not saying that's anyones plan or idea, I'm just putting that out there.

I think that this is the absolute best opportunity for job creation in Lawrence in a long time. I would love to see an expansion of industrial/commercial such as the East Hills business park further east; Harley-Davidson plant, Prosoco, and others to name a few.

The intersection for the East Hills Business Park and the construction/concrete plant to the south is attrocious. It's by far the most dangerous intersection in town even with the "warning" lights and merge lanes. I don't know the details of this proposed redesign, but anything is better for those big trucks pulling in and out.

Personally, I voted against the library, but at least they used the right form to pay for it (sales tax). I'm all for the biggest parking garage possible, as long as it's actually within the budget. I don't see many cars on the top level of the parking garage we have now most of the year so I see no absolute need for an extra level unless it's financially feasible. Parking is not bad downtown except for people not willing to walk more than a block or two. Let alone the fact that a parking garage at this location won't improve the situation all that dramatically.

I say a capital campaign for the west Lawrence rec center is obviously a feasible plan of action. I would love to see more than $3 million in private money going into something like this. I know that west Lawrence can afford it. Start the capital campaign now and work through 2012 and see where you are and move it up the priority list for 2013.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

" Personally, I voted against the library, but at least they used the right form to pay for it (sales tax)."

I thought it would be paid for through an increase in the property tax mill levy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

"I say a capital campaign for the west Lawrence rec center is obviously a feasible plan of action. I would love to see more than $3 million in private money going into something like this."

I don't think the city should pony up any more money than it would take to build a center comparable to the one at Holcomb. If the movers and shakers out there want anything more, let private money make up the difference.

And an even better idea would be to expand Holcomb, which is much more centralized, and therefore much more appropriate for a facility designed for the entire community (and not just far W. Lawrence.)

JackMcKee 6 years ago

how much longer do we have to endure Cromwell as mayor?

buffalo63 6 years ago

When the City goes to a one-person truck, what happens when that person encounters the scene I saw on Kentucky the other day? There was trash lined along the entire street from one side of the property line to the other. It would take that person 20-30 minutes to load. Since it wasn't in a cart, does it get left? For how long? The renters have moved out, does it fall on the landlord? What if an absentee landlord? At least it was loaded by all three people (the driver got out to help) and gone that day. What are they planning to do with the leaves in the fall? We live in an older neighborhood and put out 6-15 cans and paper sacks a week for 6-8 weeks. Will we pay extra since it won't fit in the cart?

deec 6 years ago

Empty carts blow over in a strong wind. They are bulky and challenging for some older residents to move. What happens when a cart is damaged or destroyed? Will the resident be charged a replacement fee? How badly will the trees in the alleys be butchered to make room for the arm to move? Do the arms go both ways, or will the truck need to make two passes per route?

sad_lawrencian 6 years ago

"who if tradition holds will move up from his vice mayor spot to become mayor in April."

That's the first problem: mayors aren't directly elected in a citywide election. They should be.

pea 6 years ago

"Trash tops list of issues". It seems to work pretty well for me as it is. Is trash really our top concern as a city? WTF?

Alceste 6 years ago

Exactly, "pea".

WHY is "trash" really the top issue for Lawrence, Kansas?

As for "recycling", why doesn't the state of Kansas mandate a "deposit" on glass bottles, plastic bottles, etc. as is done in many other states? Why is "recycling" a "local" issue and not a much larger state issue?

Concluding, Alceste most certainly wishes Alceste's street looked like the one in the picture above: NO traffic; NO holes in the road; NO cars parked on either side of the road; NO blight in any front yard; NO trash containers as yard art; etc.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years ago

Alceste, you can easily get a picture of your street to look like that.

Just use, or have a friend use, Photoshop or another photograph editing program to fix the picture that you actually took.

And, it is also possible to substitute your favorite celebrities for the people picking up your trash.

sad_lawrencian 6 years ago

I don't see what's wrong with the current system? For approximately $50 a month, the city comes out and picks up pretty much anything I leave on the curb. What's the problem?

deec 6 years ago

The problem is that none of the largest for-profit waste management corporations in the world are making money off the current extremely effective system. It sure is curious how the carts are being pushed by certain commission members.

conservative 6 years ago

Extremely effective? Our trash collection costs are higher than neighboring communities.... AND the system ran at a loss for the city for the last several years. Yes it is nice that you can put literally anything at the curb and the city will pick it up, but that comes at a cost and that cost has not been captured in the bills.

jafs 6 years ago

If you're paying $50 a month for trash collection, you're overpaying by quite a bit.

Our monthly bills from the city include water, sewer, and trash collection - you should be paying about $15/month for the trash collection.

sad_lawrencian 6 years ago

It's water, sewer and trash put together. I don't know how much the trash part of the bill is. I throw out my paper bills without opening them.

kuguardgrl13 6 years ago

I can't say much on the trash carts as I live in an apartment and use a dumpster. I would be all for a city-wide recycling program. They're already pushing it up on the hill by having a KU Recycling department that provides public recycling bins all over campus and supposedly taking off-campus recycling for pick up at the Park & Ride. Lawrence would greatly benefit from a recycling program. If it goes out with the trash, people are more likely to actually use it. No need to haul everything to the Dillons parking lot for those of us who are environmentally conscious. Think of how much plastic would be saved from going to the dump and never going away. A recycling program would also bring jobs to either the extra trash employees if the city goes to the one-person crews or employees for a private recycling company. Sure, not everyone will recycle but there will be many residents who would if it were more convenient. My only concern is if the many apartment complexes will also receive recycling pick-up. I would personally like to not have to throw away my plastic anymore.

Sunny Parker 6 years ago

Walmart has a recycling your plastic over there!

Matthew Herbert 6 years ago

Mandating the type of trash can you use? Really? What shall I do with my old can....I can't throw it won't fit in your approved uniform can.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

Anything New About Trash = Pay-As-You-Throw

In communities with pay-as-you-throw programs (also known as unit pricing or variable-rate pricing), residents are charged for the collection of municipal solid waste—ordinary household trash—based on the amount they throw away. This creates a direct economic incentive to recycle more and to generate less waste.

Traditionally, residents pay for waste collection through property taxes or a fixed fee, regardless of how much—or how little—trash they generate. Pay-As-You-throw (PAYT) breaks with tradition by treating trash services just like electricity, gas, and other utilities. Households pay a variable rate depending on the amount of service they use. Environment/Equity/Economy

Most communities with PAYT charge residents a fee for each bag or can of waste they generate. In a small number of communities, residents are billed based on the weight of their trash. Either way, these programs are simple and fair. The less individuals throw away, the less they pay.

EPA supports this new approach to solid waste management because it encompasses three interrelated components that are key to successful community programs:

  1. Environmental Sustainability - Communities with programs in place have reported significant increases in recycling and reductions in waste, due primarily to the waste reduction incentive created by PAYT. Less waste and more recycling mean that fewer natural resources need to be extracted. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacture, distribution, use, and subsequent disposal of products are reduced as a result of the increased recycling and waste reduction PAYT encourages. In this way, PAYT helps slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere which leads to global climate change. For more information on the link between solid waste and global climate change, go to EPA's Climate Change Web site.

  2. Economic Sustainability - PAYT is an effective tool for communities struggling to cope with soaring municipal solid waste management expenses. Well-designed programs generate the revenues communities need to cover their solid waste costs, including the costs of such complementary programs as recycling and composting. Residents benefit, too, because they have the opportunity to take control of their trash bills.

  3. Equity - One of the most important advantages of a variable-rate program may be its inherent fairness. When the cost of managing trash is hidden in taxes or charged at a flat rate, residents who recycle and prevent waste subsidize their neighbors' wastefulness. Under PAYT, residents pay only for what they throw away.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

Lawrence has excellent trash service so let's keep it that way and run by city hall!

I want my tax dollars keeping people on the job not for finding ways to put people out of work.

My tax dollars are best spent sustaining households rather than any of them becoming more victims of "automation".

I prefer to have my tax dollars keeping city staff on the job as opposed to on Social Services.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.