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Archive for Thursday, October 13, 2011

Town Talk: Signs that Dillons demo is about to begin; Olive Garden pursuing national strategy of local tax breaks; more on city trash and recycling

October 13, 2011

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News and notes from around town:

• For those of you eager for Dillons to get started on building its new store on south Massachusetts Street, there are signs that your wait is about over. The company has installed construction fencing around the old store near 17th and Massachusetts that must be torn down before work on the new store can begin. I’ve got a call into Dillons’ corporate office to find out more specifics about a timeline. I’ll let you know if I get any information on that front. I had heard from some people who believed the project had hit a snag with the city. I really don’t believe that is the case. Barry Walthall, the city’s building safety manager who oversees the building permit process, told me that the city was ready to issue Dillons a demolition permit as soon as the company disconnected the electricity to the building. Walthall said his understanding was that Dillons was still removing some items from the interior of the store and needed electricity for that purpose. As for an issue with a building permit, Walthall confirmed that the plans for the building already have been approved by all the necessary city offices. He said a building permit could be ready to be issued within a few days once a couple of “minor details” related to associated public improvement plans are finalized. Bottomline, imagine if you hadn’t cleaned your garage out for 40 years (what, some of you say you don’t have to imagine). How long would it take you to get everything moved out? I think that is kind of the case here. It is an old store that had accumulated a lot of stuff and it is just taking a little time to prepare it for its day of rubble.

• Well, we’re still waiting on the latest set of plans to be filed for an Olive Garden restaurant at 27th and Iowa streets. As we previously reported, even though a request to provide property tax rebates for the development fell flat, the Kansas City development group that is working to bring Olive Garden to town went ahead and filed a preliminary plat for the northeast corner of 27th and Iowa streets. That’s a strong sign that the Olive Garden project is going to move forward even without local incentives. All we’re waiting for now is a site plan to be filed, which should confirm that Olive Garden is still in the mix. If that ends up being the case, it looks like Olive Garden coming to town without a local incentive will be an exception rather than the rule. The Orlando Sentinel — the hometown paper that covers the corporate offices of Olive Garden’s parent company — reported this week that Olive Garden has made it a corporate strategy to get more aggressive in asking for local tax breaks. The article highlighted several communities that have said yes. Decatur, Ala., has given almost a half-million dollars in incentives, and Bristol, Va. about $350,000. Some communities have said no, though, and the executive director of the watchdog group Good Jobs First told the Sentinel that he’s not aware of any other chain restaurants seeking incentives.

“There is a slippery slope issue,” Greg LeRoy told the Sentinel. “If one chain gets it, the next one’s going to say, where’s mine?”

You can read the entire article from the Sentinel here. The reporter on the piece called several Lawrence folks who were involved in the issue locally but the Lawrence information got left on the cutting room floor mainly — I believe — because the local incentives discussed would technically be going to the development group and not Olive Garden directly. What I previously had heard is that the development group was exploring a federal program — the New Markets Tax Credit Program — that may be able to provide an incentive for investing in a blighted or low income area. I haven’t heard whether that will be a part of any development moving forward or not.

• In the battle of who can write the most about trash, I believe the City Hall reporter for the Wichita Eagle has inched ahead of me. I wrote a lengthy Q&A piece about local trash and recycling issues last weekend. But trash is making news on a regular basis down in Wichita. The Wichita City Council this week approved a plan that has some elements of what is being talked about in Lawrence, but is missing one major one. The Wichita council approved a “pay as you throw” system, which means customers may be charged different monthly rates based upon how much trash they leave at the curb. They do that by having carts. A household that has a lot of trash on a regular basis can rent a large cart and pay one price. A household with less trash could rent a smaller cart and pay less. But what Wichita leaders balked at — after considerable debate from the public — is a mandatory curbside recycling program. That is very much going to be a discussion in Lawrence.

As we’ve said before, mandatory doesn’t mean that you have to recycle everything that can be recycled. What it means is that a curbside recycling service will be a part of your monthly bill, regardless of whether you use the service. That didn’t fly in Wichita. That community, though, does take a much different approach to how it collects trash. The city allows multiple private haulers to operate in the city, and they compete household by household for the business. It is believed Wichita is the largest city in the country that still uses such a “free-market” approach. I don’t expect to see that recommended locally. If you want to read more about Wichita’s service, including what some of the private haulers charge down there, you can do so here.

• One question I have received from several folks is about how environmentally friendly the city will end up being if it adds a curbside recycling program? Here’s the concern: The city already runs two trash trucks along every city street pretty much once a week — one truck to drive by to pick up trash and another truck to drive by looking for anybody who has set out yard waste. (Yard waste doesn’t operate during the winter, but it operates most of the year.) With a curbside recycling program, that would be a third truck that travels over every city street at least once per week. From an environmental standpoint, there is a carbon footprint calculation to consider there. Of course, if a curbside recycling program reduces the amount of trash going into the landfill, there is an environmental calculation to be made on that end too. I struggle enough with just regular old mathematical calculations, so I’m not even going to attempt to figure this out. But somebody will need to.

It would seem hard to argue that the most environmentally efficient way to recycle is to get people to take their items to a drop off location — like the center at Wal-Mart — while they’re out running other errands. But the question becomes whether “enough” people will do that. I think there is a certain segment of city leadership that believes if people have to pay for a curbside recycling service, they certainly are going to recycle more than they do today. I think that is what the data in communities that have gone that route shows.

One option I’ve heard mentioned that could address this idea of three trucks driving over city streets is using new trucks that could pick up both curbside recycling and trash at the same time. The trucks have two containers to keep the material separated. I’m hearing, though, that some communities have tried that and don’t like it. Tamara Bennett, the assistant director of public works who oversees the city’s trash collection, said some communities have found the trucks aren’t very efficient. That’s because one side fills up faster than the other, and you spend a lot of time and fuel driving to either the landfill or the recycling processing center. If the recycling processing center and the landfill aren’t in the same location, you really spend a lot of time and fuel dumping your loads.

It will be interesting to see if the city ends up talking much about what type of trash trucks the city ought to be using in the future. There are all types of issues. Do you get trucks that have robotic arms that would allow for a one-person crew? Do you get trucks that use compressed natural gas or some other fuel source more environmentally friendly than diesel?

Wow, that ended up being a long bit about trash. Maybe I can catch the Wichita Eagle yet. As my editors would tell you, never underestimate my ability to write long.

Comments

2 years, 11 months ago

As excited as I am to see the new Dillons go up, I can't help but wonder if the demo company is recylcing any of the materials. There is a lot of brick and stone on the exterior of that building that could be used, I know I would!

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George_Braziller 2 years, 11 months ago

The delay in demolition was caused because it was discovered that there was more asbestos in the building than anticipated. Abatement of the asbestos had to happen first before the demolition could begin.

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jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

I sure hope they did a good job, and none of that asbestos is going to be released into the air.

That's the most dangerous form of it, as I understand it.

What did they do with it to make sure that doesn't happen?

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2 years, 11 months ago

As excited as I am to see the new Dillons go up, I can't help but wonder if the demo company is recylcing any of the materials. There is a lot of brick and stone on the exterior of that building that could be used, I know I would!

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average 2 years, 11 months ago

Chad, how is the 'three truck problem' any different from the status quo? We've already got a trash truck, a yard waste truck (in season), and a Deffenbaugh recycling truck (larger than the city's trash trucks) going by every week as it is. While I'm sure there are a few blocks in this town without any Deffenbaugh subscribers, I suspect they go down the strong majority of streets. So, three would be exactly like it is now, which I don't find insufferable, and any combination of services would be an improvement.

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jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

That's an interesting point.

If the city simply replaces the Deffenbaugh trucks, and maybe gets to pick up more recycling, it wouldn't be any worse environmentally, and perhaps a bit better.

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2 years, 11 months ago

Average, I think that is a good point. I'm just passing along a concern that I've heard. I believe some folks, however, would take the position that the city should strive for a greater improvement of efficiency than the status quo, if the city is going to take on the added cost/risk of running a curbside recycling program. Also, I think some are concerned that Deffenbaugh's truck will be replaced with a truck that is funded by the city, but that of course, is more of a financial concern than an environmental concern.

As always, I'm just bringing this up to facilitate a discussion. I'm not advocating one position over another.

Thanks, Chad

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Amy Heeter 2 years, 11 months ago

If the city is going to charge me more no matter if I participate or not. Then I want the Local trash crews to be paid the actual four hours they work instead of the eight they get paid for now and I want them to stop the free insurance ride for trash collectors too.

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malehrman 2 years, 11 months ago

I think a very important distinction on the question of mandatory recycling in Wichita is that while the City Council rejected mandatory recycling for all residents, all private trash services are required to offer single-stream recycling as an option to all residents.

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Getaroom 2 years, 11 months ago

artichokeheart: so you mean that you would like their jobs? The job with no eminent risk involved by riding on the back of a moving truck? You want to go all over the city picking up heavy objects, enduring stinking garbage full of soiled diapers and who knows what else? You don't want to be paid for time on the job, no matter what needs to be done during on-the-job hours because it is such a cushy job? Woowh! You really do have heart.

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pace 2 years, 11 months ago

Are you suggesting that each of us should put out the same amount of trash each time? You want to deprive employees of health insurance as part of their employment package, Or are you suggesting just singling out the guys on trucks picking up your trash. that is just precious. What is the temperature range in Kansas, is it over 120 degrees?

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gccs14r 2 years, 11 months ago

I still think they can save the extra trip by exchanging one or more yard waste pickup runs for the same number of recycling runs.

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jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

Yes, that seems like a very good idea.

I wonder why they aren't discussing it - perhaps alternating weeks between yard waste/recycling would work for most people, and possibly not need any extra charges, or a minimal amount of them.

Chad?

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2 years, 11 months ago

It has received some discussion at the task force. I think the group is of a divided mind on how to proceed with yard waste. The yard waste that is picked up currently is a large part of the total amount of material recycled in the city. Yard waste deposited in a land fill produces methane gas, but if the Hamm landfill follows through with adding a methane gas collection system to it operations, yard waste in the landfill would be a positive, some argue. I expect at least one or two city commissioners will bring up the yard waste issue. Thanks, Chad

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jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

So, if they stop picking up yard waste separately, will our bills reflect that, and go down? We're currently paying for the yard waste pickup in our monthly water, etc. bill.

If so, they could simply substitute recycling, and not charge us any more, right?

If we're continuing to do both, why couldn't we do each on alternate weeks, and not charge much more, if any, for the services?

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pace 2 years, 11 months ago

I think that is an excellent suggestion. While I am offered yardwaste collection. I have only used it once or twice since it begun. I don't bag grass and I compost. I sometimes have a bit too many oak leaves. I don't drink beer and don't take the paper, my recycling is a lot of packaging and magazines. I could easily use a once or twice a month pickup. I realize that is just our household. Our kids are grown. I imagine that each household is different and I have no idea what would serve the community most effectively.

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Eric Neuteboom 2 years, 11 months ago

I can not support a system that does not take glass. That is just dumb.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 11 months ago

That statement amazes me. You mean they don't? They sure do pick up your old and broken glass in southern California to be recycled!

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pace 2 years, 11 months ago

I respect your opinion but I don't agree. I find glass a problematic material for collection. It is heavy, and has a weak market. I think it is dumb not to have a deposit/continers, like many states. That really works. a few pennies on containers at purchase. recovers a lot of the glass, is useful for fundraiser. I admit I am old enough to have gathered pop bottles for movie money as a kid.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 11 months ago

"Is there any answer that doesn't directly lead back to cronyism or graft or some like ilk?"

I don't think so.

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Scott Morgan 2 years, 11 months ago

Because they can, same with why would a Western Kansas county pay for the education of an MD?

Pay for and sometimes give pocket money during college so an MD can go to the town after graduation and become wealthy.

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TNPlates 2 years, 11 months ago

I think this is a great idea. They might even be able to use the same trucks. Or better, they could contract out to the current recycling services and have each take a different part of the city. Those folks already have the vehicles they need and if they worked a smaller area with more product (rather than a few clients here and there and everywhere), their operations would be more efficient. They could also cut back to yard waste recycling being every other week. I would guess most people don't have a bag full of yard waste each week anyway (especially come late summer and dormant grass).

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whats_going_on 2 years, 11 months ago

I really like Deffenbaugh. sigh

And I was also shocked at the Olive Garden thing, trying to get tax breaks all over the place. WTF? Corporate greed for the loss. Why should we give a rats a** if if they come? We've got perfectly good LOCAL restaurants, and they food tastes like garbage.

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paul85 2 years, 11 months ago

While I can't say I've ever eaten garbage, if it tastes like Olive Garden, sign me up. Their chicken scampi is pretty good, and i like their soups and salad. Breadsticks aren't bad either.

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paul85 2 years, 11 months ago

While I can't say I've ever eaten garbage, if it tastes like Olive Garden, sign me up. Their chicken scampi is pretty good, and i like their soups and salad. Breadsticks aren't bad either.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 11 months ago

The city is hell bent on competing with companies that actually pay taxes. They have every intension of running Deffenbaugh out of the city. They do their best to run the local taxi cab companies out with the empT. They continue to wonder why they dont have a tax base. It is pretty simple.

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wheels 2 years, 11 months ago

They're buying off consumers with free bread sticks.

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pace 2 years, 11 months ago

I do not recommend Deffenbaugh. They are bad news. Starts off great, offers seem to good to be true, because they are too good to be true. I find them a disgusting company. . I appreciate the local companies but I think trash and recycling should be done through our city division, where we have control. I like the idea of every other week, yard waste/curbside recycling.

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Lee Eldridge 2 years, 11 months ago

There's a problem with collecting yard waste every other week. I mow every week and fill my container. After a few days, the collected grass smells bad! No way I can store it in my garage for two weeks. Now I would need two containers, and would have to store them outside my garage. I'm sure my neighbors will love that.

As for Deffenbaugh, I've been very pleased with them even though they don't collect glass. I keep two containers in my garage -- one for glass and one for plastic bags (they don't take those either). And I make a Wal-Mart run every couple months to drop the glass and plastic bags. Deffenbaugh's pays for itself in the amount of time and money I save not making weekly or bi-weekly runs to Wal-Mart to recycle. And I find that we're much more diligent about recycling than we were before. We put out VERY little trash on trash day now.

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