A proposal to require Lawrence households to start using city-owned trash carts instead of standard bags or cans is rolling ever closer to a debate at Lawrence City Hall.
City staff members have created a set of recommendations for the city to purchase 23,000 trash carts — at a price tag of about $1.13 million — that could allow the carts to start showing up on curbs by late September.
“When I talk to sanitation loaders about what can make their jobs safer and quicker, they are all over the idea of everybody having carts,” said City Manager David Corliss. “I want to try to do something the entire industry is moving towards.”
The idea of requiring Lawrence residents to replace their cans or bags with a city-issued cart isn’t new. It was the top recommendation of the city’s Solid Waste Task Force earlier this year.
But the new report out of City Hall gives the most details yet about the structure and expense of the program. City staff members are projecting the cart program won’t require an increase in monthly bills for any residents, and may decrease the bills of the about 7,000 households that currently rent a cart from the city.
City commissioners haven’t yet set a date to debate the issue, but Corliss said he expects the subject to be on a commission agenda within the next month. Corliss said that if commissioners make a decision early this summer to move forward with the program, the carts could start arriving in Lawrence in the fall.
Here’s a look at several details of the proposal that will be presented to city commissioners:
• A 65-gallon cart would be the standard size issued to households. City staff members are estimating the 65-gallon cart will meet the trash needs of a typical four-person household, especially if the household recycles some of its trash. Households would be provided the city-owned cart for no additional charge per month.
• A 90-gallon cart would be issued to households that have a difficult time fitting all their trash into the 65-gallon cart. Households that choose to have the 90-gallon cart would pay a $1-per-month fee.
• The new trash system would allow a household to place bags of trash at the curb if its cart is full. There would be no extra charge for picking up a bag or two, but the city has indicated it wants such activity to be the exception, not the rule. The memo proposes that route drivers and solid waste supervisors keep a log of households that regularly are setting out bags of trash.
• A 35-gallon cart will be offered to households that believe a 65-gallon cart is simply too large. The 35-gallon cart isn’t much larger than a standard trash can, which city officials hope will blunt some concerns that people don’t have room to store these carts. Staff members, however, aren’t recommending that households receive a price break for taking the 35-gallon cart instead of the 65-gallon version.
• Staff members are estimating the 7,000 households that currently rent a cart from the city will see their trash bills decline under the cart program. The city currently charges $1.50 per month to rent a 65-gallon cart. Under the proposed program that monthly fee would be eliminated. The city currently charges $2 per month to rent a 90-gallon cart. Under the proposed program, that fee would drop to $1 per month.
• The memo recommends the city use $1.12 million from the equipment reserve fund in the city’s solid waste division to cover the bulk of the trash cart purchases.
“We have held back on a number of expenditures in that department, and in some cases staffing, in recognition that this really needs to happen,” Corliss said.
The memo projects the city’s 2013 budget for the solid waste division will allow residential trash rates to remain unchanged from their current levels of $14.94 per month. The budget, however, does call for the elimination of one position in the department. That position currently is vacant.
City leaders previously have said they expect the cart system to pay for itself through lower workers compensation claims and reductions in staff as the carts allow for more automated trucks in the future.