Archive for Thursday, April 26, 2012

Town Talk: UPDATE: New police HQ building to cost $30 million; City staff presents plan to buy 23,000 trash carts; city estimating 7,000 households would see rate decrease with cart plan

April 26, 2012


News and notes from around town:

• UPDATE: In case you were worried that Lawrence city commissioners wouldn't have any major topics to wring their hands over during the upcoming 2013 budget process, city commissioners were given 30 million of them on Thursday.

City Hall on Thursday afternoon released a new report detailing the need for a new police headquarters facility that would combine the city's force under one roof. The report estimates that a new building ranging in size from about 37,000 square feet to 45,000 square feet will cost nearly $30 million to construct.

Figuring out how the city would finance that major project — about $12 million more than the new library expansion — will be a large part of the city's 2013 budget process, which begins with a study session Tuesday afternoon.

First, though, commissioners will have to determine whether now is the right time to move ahead on the project. The report says the department — which currently is split between its facility near Bob Billings and Wakarusa Drive and the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center in downtown — has a major need for more space. The report was conducted by Lawrence-based Treanor Architects and Wilson Estes Police Architects.

The report doesn't recommend a site for the new facility. That will be one of the next steps, if city commissioners decide to move forward. But already there is speculation that city officials will take a hard look at locating the facility next to the fire department's headquarters near 19th and Iowa streets.

But first comes the money issue. We'll be checking in with city commissioners about their initial thoughts, and report back to you tomorrow. In the meantime, you can read the entire report, here.

• What’s that rumbling I hear at Lawrence City Hall? Perhaps an army of trash carts is approaching.

There’s a new memo making the rounds with City Hall leaders that presents a plan for how the city could implement a program that requires all households to use a city-issued trash cart instead of the standard old trash cans or bags.

This idea, of course, isn’t new. It was the major recommendation of the city’s Solid Waste Task Force. And it already has drawn quite a reaction, with some people thinking it is the first step to the city operating a more efficient trash service, while others have reacted like the city is requiring them to strap the massive carts on their backs and carry them to the curb each week. (For the record, the carts do have wheels.) In other words, the idea has been mighty unpopular with some.

Perhaps new details will change some people’s minds, or perhaps not. Here’s a look at what staff members currently are proposing when it comes to carts:

— 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 will be issued to households that are having a difficult time fitting all their trash into the 65-gallon cart. Households that choose to have the 90-gallon cart instead of the 65-gallon cart would pay a $1 per month fee.

— As previously discussed by the task force, the new trash system would allow households to place bags of trash at the curb, if their 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. The memo doesn’t state it, but I suspect that system will be used to approach people who are constantly setting out bags to upgrade to the 90-gallon cart.

— 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.

“As the task force learned from other communities, people tend to underestimate their trash volumes by a significant margin,” the memo states. “Staff cautions against providing a financial incentive to under-size the trash container.”

— The city would provide a program for a limited time to allow residents to recycle their old trash cans. The memo states several trash cart companies will take the old trash cans and recycle the plastic to use in new carts.

— Staff members are estimating that about 7,000 households will see their monthly trash bills go down as a result of the new program. That’s because about 7,000 households currently rent a trash cart from the city. Most rent a 90-gallon cart. They pay the city an extra $2 per month, currently, to rent those 90-gallon carts. The new system would charge $1 per month, so my abacus tells me that would be a savings of $1 per month. If those folks who rent a 90-gallon cart today decide they’ll try to make a 65-gallon work, they’ll save $2 per month. That’s because the city wouldn’t charge a rental fee for the standard 65-gallon cart under the new system. City leaders are optimistic many people would be able to make that switch from a 90-gallon cart to a 65-gallon cart. That’s because, eventually, the city system is expected to have a curbside recycling component to it, which should reduce the amount of trash households are putting in their carts. Details of a potential curbside program, however, aren’t included in this new memo. That’s another can of worms that will produce another memo.

People who currently rent a 65-gallon cart from the city pay an extra $1.50 fee. Under the new system they’ll save that $1.50 a month, if they stick with the standard 65-gallon cart.

This idea that a significant number of households will save money under a new trash system is a point city leaders have been trying to make for quite awhile, but they’ve struggled to do so because they haven’t had the specific details. It will be interesting to see if this new information changes any opinions on a cart system.

But it also is fair to point out any reduction in monthly trash bills may be short-lived. That because if the city does create a new curbside recycling program, it likely will be a mandatory one. That means every household will be required to pay for the recycling service regardless of whether they use it. At that point, trash bills probably will be higher than they are today, but the city would counter that folks are getting a new city service. In addition, I think the city is betting it can provide the curbside recycling program for less than what private providers currently charge. So, for the 5,000 or so households in the city that currently pay a private provider for the service, the city is betting their total trash and recycling bill will go down. But all of that is in the future.

• The memo does state that for 2013, city staff will present a budget that allows the monthly base fee for solid waste to remain steady at $14.94 per month.

• The city is estimating it will need to purchase 23,000 carts at a cost of about $1.13 million. The memo states the city’s has previously set aside about $1.12 million to make upgrades to the city’s trash system.

City leaders previously have said they expect the cart system to pay for itself through fewer workers compensation claims, and reductions in staff as the operation becomes more automated. The city’s preliminary 2013 budget for the solid waste division does call for the elimination of one position in the department. That position currently is vacant.

It is important to remember that all these details are just staff’s recommendation at this point. Eventually, city commissioners will have to vote on all of this. Commissioners haven’t yet scheduled the topic for public debate.

But staff members said if commissioners act soon, the carts could be delivered to homes by late September.

• Guys, if thinking about all those carts and cleaning out the garage to make a space for it hurts your head, maybe you should take a trip to a local jewelry store. Perhaps a purchase at one of those stores can be used to convince somebody else in your household to take care of all that trash stuff. (Or perhaps, like in my household, she’s already figured out she can just drive to the store herself. I used to think it was the thought that counted, then she told me the 14-karat stamp was much more important.)

Regardless, the downtown business Marks Jewelers is planning an expansion. The company has filed plans at City Hall to add about 3,000 square feet of space onto the back of its building at 817 Mass. The expansion will provide additional showroom space and also will add a couple of offices for the company.

The building, in case you have forgotten, has a rear entrance that is set back from the rear property line. The expansion will move the building out to the property line.

The $85,000 project is another sign that business is going well for one of the older jewelry stores in the nation. The company recently purchased the downtown building from its landlord and co-owner Brad Parsons said sales had held up well even with the down economy.

Parsons said the company hopes to have the expansion — which will need approval by the city’s Historic Resources Commission — completed by the fall.


JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

Leave the trash service alone. Cromwell is the absolute worst city commissioner.

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 10 months ago

I don't bring this up as a point of disagreement with you consumer. I bring it up only because it seems like it should get some attention. The system described above — mandatory pay but voluntary participation — currently exists with the city's trash service. That's how the yard waste program of the trash system work. The cost to run that program is included in your monthly bill whether you use it or not. And, of course, there are plenty of options to deal with your yard waste other than taking it to the curb. That's why I expected the idea of changing the yard waste program to help pay for the curbside recycling program might gain some traction with city leaders. It got some discussion at the task force, but the idea of messing with the yard waste program seemed to be pretty unpopular with members of the public. Again, I don't bring this up to be argumentative, but mainly because it might be a topic that gets brought up again as city commissioners try to figure out ways to pay for a curbside system. Thanks, Chad

Eric Neuteboom 5 years, 10 months ago

True true true! And remember, they won't take glass either, so you'll be paying for a service that meets only 2/3 of your recycling needs (give or take). I am at least relieved that they're not going to charge us for trash carts.

gccs14r 5 years, 10 months ago

I would like a discount for using a 35 gallon cart, which is bigger than my current one that I rarely fill. Charge $1/bag for anything that doesn't fit in the cart for those of us who opt for the small one.

tomatogrower 5 years, 10 months ago

Who said they weren't going to take glass? I don't think they have decided on that yet, have they?

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 10 months ago

Glass is one of those things that most if not ALL recycling services take. Glass and cans. Plastic can be more of a challenge as some only take certain numbers. Also, not all take paper. But seriously, I've never heard of a recycling service not taking glass. Show me sources before you start spreading rumors.

Liberty275 5 years, 10 months ago

Charge me for recycling and I'll go out of my way to not recycle. I already do some recycling because I want to, don't botch it up.

pace 5 years, 10 months ago

Are people under 12 allowed to post on the forum?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 10 months ago

Households would be provided the city-owned cart for no additional charge per month. +++++++++++++++++++++++ Wanna buy some shoreline?

The typical bait and switch. Later in the article it says that the city has put aside 1.2 million to be used toward the costs of the carts... what it should say is the city has overcharged its customers that it has forced the service onto 1.2 million in preperation of shoving the new trash concept down our collective throats. Fire them all in the fall!

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 10 months ago

So Mr. "Green" Cromwell, tell me how making me get rid of my perfectly good trash can I have now is helping our environment? Even if you recycle those trash cans, it is a waste of energy and resources.

parrothead8 5 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, I kind of wonder about that as well. I spent good money at a local business to buy a trash can a few years ago, and I bought one that would last several years. Now what do I do with it? We live in a small house, and we don't have a lot of space to be storing extra trash cans.

Gedanken 5 years, 10 months ago

What effect would this have on the brush pickup on Mondays? I use a couple of stackable trashcans that I pull out of the garage on the weekend, fill with yard waste and put it on the curb on Monday. I have no desire to buy paper trash bags or bundle things with twine just to have it picked up.

Jonathan Fox 5 years, 10 months ago

I've wondered about this too. I haven't found any mention of what the new system does to the Monday yard brush pickup. I have a large lawn that would require more than one, maybe even three, 90gal carts to be picked up. How is that fair that now I have to ditch the perfectly good trash cans I have now, so that I can pay for a new trash carts through my taxes on the $1.13mil, then continue paying for my new trash cans every single month so that the city can eliminate jobs that we don't have enough of as it is, saving them money on workman's comp but still charging me more because I need multiple trash carts.

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 10 months ago

The city won't require carts for yard waste, according to what city leaders have said previously. You'll be able to put yard waste out in paper sacks or trash cans like you do today. Thanks, Chad

pace 5 years, 10 months ago

Glad to see the carts coming at last. I just park my cart out by the compost bin, and roll it out the evening before pickup. It is very convenient and tidy. We have racoons and it has worked to keep the critters out of the bin during the week. Glad the trash service is being updated. It has been stuck in the "good old days" should have been automated sooner. As for curbside collection of recyclables, that thrills me. Every home in this town has recyclable paper/boards , it should be part of the city wide curbside collection. I know some of the people hate change but if we don't plan smarter disposal system, where the usable products are sent to market we are doing a disservice. Land-filling recyclable materials is short sighted. We need to change.

Joe Adams 5 years, 10 months ago

Can anyone help me understand why glass recycling is never included in the plans for a curbside system? We came from a town where we had Allied Waste and they provided us with a single bin recycling system that included glass pickup. I've never heard why glass is so much harder to do in KS so I was wondering if there was any information out there about it?

Outside of Deffenbaugh, the majority of the recycle companies in town offer glass pick-up. With a service that is city mandated, we will lose these options because customers will not want to pay for two recycling services. Who picks up our glass then? If I have to drive to drop off my glass, why would I not just bring the cardboard and paper along with me?

d_prowess 5 years, 10 months ago

I too wish glass would be included. If it isn't, I might actually just keep paying the service I have now, even if it means I am paying for the city's program too. I just know myself well enough that I will never take the glass to a bin in the city and it will accumulate in my garage.

headdoctor 5 years, 10 months ago

I would imagine glass is like tires use to be. Only a small amount of glass gets reused so there is no market for it. Even if glass is picked up for recycle it eventually ends up in the land fill. Tires were the same way except some were eventually burned, buried or put in the landfill.

pace 5 years, 10 months ago

Glass is an expensive product to pick up, for weight and safety, adds to the cost a lot. Breakage contaminates the other materials more than one would guess. It is a very recyclable material and I am glad to see the Ripple drop off sites. Some very sophisticated equipment has been developed for some curbside collection programs, that is a pretty expense for starting programs. I would hope as the program matures we will increase materials and efficiency. For me, I would be happy if they just started out picking up paper/boards, every home in the community has recyclable paper, very efficient material for city wide curbside pickup. I am just thrilled we are beginning to get with it. I would prefer for the program to grow rather than be laden with dreams. I really want the material collection to save energy and waste.

gccs14r 5 years, 10 months ago

If the city is going to mandate curbside recycling, it should be all recyclable products and single stream. (One bin, no sorting.) It annoys me to no end that I have to landfill some recyclable plastics for lack of a place to take them.

irvan moore 5 years, 10 months ago

so cromwell wants to make sure he gets this shoved down our throats, make us buy the carts for an unapproved program, scre up a perfectly good trash service, penalize the people who generate the least trash? schumm, amyx, why don't you stand up for the citizens of "your" community, as local business owners you know this isn't what lawrence needs or wants

puddleglum 5 years, 10 months ago

if it is not broke, why are we fixing it?

here is a far better idea:

Chad, look into the royal rip-off we are being charged by the city utility service. On my water bill is a segment for 'sewer' charges...these charges are supposedly figured by averaging your monthly usage during dec jan and feb... Mine is always higher than my actual water usage! I used to live near downtown and the rate was nominal. I moved to west lawrence and bought a new house-the rate was ridiculous. I was told that the rate would decrease after the new sewer lines were paid for....that never happened. the other day I asked the office point blank: are you charging different amounts for different areas in the city? they said they weren't.... so which is it? what a scam.

FlintlockRifle 5 years, 10 months ago

What if you don't have a garage to put this thing in??? I know someone who used the plastic bags from different stores, and keeps them inside there home tell trash pick-up day, they are tied shut when in the home.

tomatogrower 5 years, 10 months ago

We keep our carts next to our house. They aren't an eyesore. You aren't required to keep them in the garage. As for those who keep their bags in the house until pickup, I sure hope you don't put food in there. Eww.

1julie1 5 years, 10 months ago

There are a lot of townhouses in Lawrence where there is no "next to our house." There is only out front of the townhouse.

Also, small garbage cans that fit in a one-car garage now work well for many one- or two-person households, but this bigger cart is going to be a space hog when space is at a premium.

jafs 5 years, 10 months ago

You can get a 35 gallon cart if that's what you want - that should be pretty small, I'd think.

gccs14r 5 years, 10 months ago

So this person doesn't have a patio out back?

chocolateplease 5 years, 10 months ago

I wish they would present a comprehensive long-term plan that not only includes the cart system, but also the intended transition to recycling, etc. Without the future plan, we're left to speculate. Will it be a bait and switch? Will it end up costing more than the present system once all the pieces are in place? How can anyone evaluate the proposed system withoug having the complete information about where they intend to go with it?

C'mon, City!

shadowlady 5 years, 10 months ago

I like the city trash carts, they are so much handier, than the regular trash can's that I used to have, and I don't have to be bothered with animals getting into it like I did with the regular trash cans. As far as the recycling goes, I know some people recycle their own and thats the way they want it, so that should be each persons choice to do as they want.

KUGreenMachine 5 years, 10 months ago

Companies make money off of selling recycled material. There should be no reason why this service isn't already included with our services at no extra charge!!! Recycling pays for itself!

somedude20 5 years, 10 months ago

Living in an apartment means getting the shaft again. First, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen non residents pull up in their old crapbox trucks and proceed to dump construction or yard waste filling up both bins (last Tues some jagaloon dumped condtruction junk filling up the containers for the whole week). We won't have the extra benefit but will have the extra cost with more people taking their dumps to my backyard. We already pay, as some have said, for yard waste pickup which does us no good. Epic failure

Terry Sexton 5 years, 10 months ago

'jagaloon' that is top shelf, hadn't heard that before. yours?

tomatogrower 5 years, 10 months ago

You should get the tag numbers, and call the police. Those dumpsters are for the use of apartment dwellers.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 10 months ago

Ditto on paying the same rate as everyone else for services we don't need :P I don't think my complex ever comes through to take care of "yard waste". They just leave. Seriously though unless you're homeless, don't be dumping in my dumpster that I pay for! It'd be like if I came up to your house and overflowed your trashcan. I don't do that, and neither should you. (You being anyone who dumps in someone else's can or dumpster)

Matthew Del Vecchio 5 years, 10 months ago

I like the city trash carts also, they look much nicer than the cheap and very light plastic hardware store trash cans that seem to always end up blown in the middle of the street. Also keeping the trash service in house even if it means a few extra bucks per month has 100% of my support. The city workers who run my route always treat my property with respect and never leave a mess. If any of you have ever lived in a city that outsources this work to a Waste Management or a Deffenbaugh type company then you probably will agree. Sure it's cheaper to hire an out of town trash company but you get what you pay for and I'd rather not pick up bits of trash from my yard or street because the trash crew is in a hurry to get on to the next town.

pace 5 years, 10 months ago

10000000 +++++++ the crew who work my street, are hard working, polite, and do a fine job.

Defenbaugh is a company I would not let on my property.

lunacydetector 5 years, 10 months ago

i have a 70 gallon trash can that is 18 months old. will the city reimburse me for it? or, give me a prorated amount? it cost me $65.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 10 months ago

They don't have DST in AZ, so I guess that means Wibur was in the bag at noon time. Scottsdale, phssh. Nothin' but an easy bake desert oven.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 10 months ago

23,000 trash carts could be a nice photo op.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 months ago

IF the automated system is putting people out of work why should there be additional fees for anything?

Keith 5 years, 10 months ago

I hate to hijack this great trash thread, but did anyone notice this in the part about needing a new police headquarters?

"The report was conducted by Lawrence-based Treanor Architects and Wilson Estes Police Architects. "

Has there ever been an architect directed report that didn't call for more buildings?

John Hamm 5 years, 10 months ago

I was beginning to wonder if anyone noticed the $30 MILLION dollar bill the city is about to drop on us. Looks like people are more worried about One or Two Dollars a month - which they're gonna lose when the city hikes rates anyway - that 30 million.

Joe Adams 5 years, 10 months ago

That story showed up this afternoon and wasn't mentioned at all by the time all these first trash comments were posted. There were some trash comments after it was posted but for the most part, the discussion was going on earlier today.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 months ago

With all of the new projects on the table how in the world can the city afford to hand out tax incentives aka not paying taxes?

Seems like we taxpayers find ourselves bailing out city hall decisions 24/7.

irvan moore 5 years, 10 months ago

we don't really think this is about the trash service do we? isn't it more likely that it's all about the money and personal gain/benefits for some of the players

Curtis Lange 5 years, 10 months ago

I LOVE our City of Lawrence trash cart! Best $2.50/month we spend.

LadyJ 5 years, 10 months ago

Just curious as to whether an automated truck can pick up a regular trash route as fast as the three man non automated crews. If they can't, won't they need more trucks and more routes? Also, if you watch when they pick up trash from one of the city trash cans, they open it up and if possible, just grab the bags and toss them in the truck unless there are loose items. Then they hook it up and let the truck empty it.

Piggles 5 years, 10 months ago

Don't bother giving me a trash cart- I will not use it. I already have two 30 gallon trash cans. The reason I haven't used them is because being a single person, I only have one bag of trash and I am not going to sit a big can out for one little small bag trash. The bag I put out this morning was only about 2/3rds full. If city give me a container, I will just keep it out on the street as I don't have room for more carts/cans. I have no garage. Maybe someone can come by and "take" my cart as I don't want it. City leaders.... FIX the streets instead. Quit worrying about the trash. My street has not been repaved since I moved over here and it's been almost 9 years now. Nothing but potholes. City will come by and patch it a little. They will put down a new layer of pavement on a street right next to mine even though there is nothing wrong with it..... sigh...

absolutelyridiculous 5 years, 10 months ago

Spend. Spend. Spend. How about lowering my freaking propety taxes? MY valuation went down 6 percent and my property taxes STILL went up $700/year. Live within our means City Hall., school board. My wallet is empty.

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 10 months ago

Will they have a garage for the new Armored tank? How about some Stinger Missiles too?

Gotta keep up with the Fire Department, after all.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 10 months ago

$30 mil for a bureaucratic batcave? Seems excessive. Is that really what it takes to fight crime these days? That's a cryin' shame crime right there is what that is.

headdoctor 5 years, 10 months ago

"The city would provide a program for a limited time to allow residents to recycle their old trash cans. The memo states several trash cart companies will take the old trash cans and recycle the plastic to use in new carts."

That is mighty nice of them especially for those who have just paid good money recently for new replacement cans. I think I will pressure wash mine and sell them to the party houses to ice down kegs.

Evan Ridenour 5 years, 10 months ago

Idea. How about we cancel the expensive expansion of the library (an already out dated concept soon to be completely extinct that serves a distinct minority of the city population), and spend the money supporting essential services like the police facility? While we are at it, we could spend more money on our crumbling streets. Maybe buy the fire department a new fire truck?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 10 months ago

The Sears building is one great idea. And keep the one near the courthouse.

Forget building that pork barrel project aka the $100 million sewage treatment plant and the new PLAY project that will eventually be added to the taxpayers responsibility. PLAY is a tax dollar money hole that has more than $20 million on the PLAY tab as we speak.

Better yet allow the taxpayers vote on this matter. Let taxpayers help politicians make the right decision. Taxpayers should NOT want local politicians to be the ultimate decision makers on spending.

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