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Archive for Monday, August 13, 2012

Town Talk: City ready to spend $885,000 on new trash carts, set rates for new trash service; weekly land transfers

August 13, 2012

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News and notes from around town:

• Here’s my prediction: A trash cart will be the trendy Halloween costume in Lawrence this year.

Certainly trash carts should be on the minds of a lot of Lawrence folks come Halloween. After months and months of talk, city commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday are set to close the lid on the trash cart debate, and take the key step that would allow the carts to be in use by late October.

Commissioners are being asked to sign an $885,490 check that will allow the city to purchase 21,000 plastic trash carts. That check will begin a new era in Lawrence trash collection.

Once the city purchases the carts, it will become mandatory for all single-family residential customers to start using the carts instead of their standard trash cans or bags.

There has been a significant amount of moaning from some members of the public about the idea of this forced trash cart policy. People have complained they won’t have room to store the carts in their garages. People have complained that it will force them to get rid of perfectly good trash cans. People have complained that if government can force you to use a trash cart, what else can it force you to use?

But so far, city commissioners haven’t blinked. They’ve been pretty consistent in saying that the current system of allowing heavy cans and bags to be placed at the curb is bad business. That’s because city workers are required to lift those heavy cans and bags, which causes workplace injuries.

During the last two years, the city has experienced about $700,000 worth of workers compensation claims in the city’s solid waste division. City leaders are expecting that number to drop after the cart program is implemented because the new system will require much less heavy lifting on the part of trash crew members. All of the city’s current trash trucks already have hydraulic lifts designed to dump the carts.

Future trash trucks bought by the city may have robotic arms that would allow a driver of the truck to empty the carts by maneuvering a joystick. (See, Mom, your insistence that I not have an Atari growing up is now limiting my career options.)

Ultimately, this trash cart program could have a significant impact on the size of the city’s Solid Waste Division. But city leaders so far haven’t been highlighting the potential to reduce employee totals as a result of this program. And they have made a point to say any reduction in staff would come through attrition rather than big layoffs.

City commissioners, though, will be doing more than just writing a check on Tuesday. They also must decide how customers will be charged for these carts, and how the system will work. If there is going to be a debate at City Hall over trash carts, this is likely what will cause it.

Here’s a look at some details:

— City leaders are recommending that a 65-gallon cart be the standard size issued to residents. Of the 21,000 carts being ordered, 17,000 of them are of the 65-gallon size. The city also will be ordering 3,000 of the 95-gallon carts and 1,000 of the 35-gallon carts.

— Residents using the standard 65-gallon cart would pay $14.94 per month. That’s the current rate for the city’s trash service without a cart. In other words, the city is not proposing to increase your trash rate in order to give you a cart. The city has more than $800,000 in a reserve fund that can be used to fund the purchase of carts.

In fact, the city is touting people who currently choose to rent a 65-gallon cart from the city will see a reduction in their monthly rate under this plan. Currently, people who rent a 65-gallon cart from the city pay $16.44 per month.

— Residents using the 95-gallon cart would pay $15.94 per month under the proposed system That $15.94 per month is $1 less than what city residents currently pay for trash service, if they rent a large cart from the city.

— Residents using the 35-gallon cart would pay $14.44 per month. That’s 50 cents less than the current base rate, which doesn’t include any type of cart. This part of the proposal may create some debate among city commissioners. There are at least a couple of commissioners who want to see residents receive a significant price break, if they are able to really limit the amount of trash they set out each week.

The idea of a 50-cent break may not be enough to satisfy those commissioners. But staff members have warned that providing too big of a break could be as messy as a bargain brand trash sack. The worry is that if people think they can save a few bucks, they’ll sign up for the 35-gallon cart even though they can’t fit all their trash into it.

Some cities have a strict policy of not taking any trash that doesn’t fit inside the cart. But Lawrence is not proposing such a policy. Instead, it would allow people to occasionally set out extra trash that won’t fit into the cart. With such a policy, it is easy to see how some people could game the system by ordering a cart that is too small for their needs.

Plus, staff members have noted that reducing the rate too much could be financially risky. Sure, if people set out less trash, the city would save some money on tipping fees it must pay at the landfill. But currently those fees don’t account for much of a household’s monthly bill. The big costs are the truck, the people riding on it, and the amount of fuel it takes to get to your house. Those costs remain the same, regardless of whether the city is picking up a 35-gallon cart or a 95-gallon cart.

— On the other end of the spectrum are those folks who put out a lot of trash. Staff members are recommending a significant increase for those households. If people have so much trash on a regular basis that they need two carts, the city is recommending they pay an extra $3 per month for a 65-gallon cart and an extra $4 per month for a 95-gallon cart. Currently, the city’s charges for an extra cart are $1.50 per month and $2 per month, respectively.

— Staff members are recommending a 120-day “right-sizing period” to start the program. During the period, city staff members will switch out the size of carts for no charge to ensure households have the size of cart that meets their trash needs. After the 120-day period, the city would charge a delivery fee to replace carts.

The city also notes, however, the idea of switching to a larger cart may not be left solely to the discretion of the household. If the city sees a household is routinely setting out more trash than can fit into the cart, the city can require the household to upgrade to larger cart and the higher monthly rate that comes with it.

— The manufacturer of the plastic carts — Rehrig Pacific Co., which has its main manufacturing plant in De Soto — will run a program to recycle current trash cans that households no longer will use. But city officials also have said they will encourage people to keep the trash cans and use them for yard waste. Households won’t be required to use the carts to set out yard waste.

So, lots of details about trash carts. Commissioners will discuss them at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday. But as my wife would say, we still don't know the really important stuff, like, what color are they going to be? I'll check in on that.

• As some of you know, I was on vacation last week, which means I have two weeks worth of land transfers to pass along.

While on vacation in Nashville, I did not buy any real estate, but that seems to be the only thing I did not buy. While in the Music City, an odd thing happened: Large amounts of water started falling from the sky. Being from Kansas, the sight was foreign to us, and my wife sought shelter in the one space that has always comforted her — the mall.

Suffice to say, never go to the restroom in a mall. During my short time away from my lovely wife’s side, she discovered a deal on three bags of gourmet cookies and found a “Coach” store, which is not nearly as much fun as it sounds.

Anyway, click here to see land transfers as recorded by the Douglas County Register of Deeds. Not much to report in terms of commercial sales, although it appears Lawrence landlord Doug Compton has purchased another property in the Oread neighborhood, this one at 1646 Ky.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 4 months ago

"Doug Compton has purchased another property in the Oread neighborhood, this one at 1646 Ky."

Nice looking house-- too bad it probably has a date with a bulldozer in its near future.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 4 months ago

That's completely out of character for Compton, but I'd be quite happy to be wrong about the bulldozer.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 4 months ago

I only do it so that you can whine about my whining.

John Hamm 2 years, 4 months ago

How many takers that there's no reduction in the waste/trash workforce?

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

They said it will be reduced through attrition, so it will be reduced.

That's the plan.

classclown 2 years, 4 months ago

I plan on putting any extra trash I have in my snooty neighbors trash can.

........................................................................

"But city officials also have said they will encourage people to keep the trash cans and use them for yard waste."

Good idea. I'll just set that can out in the front yard by the sidewalk and dump the waste my dogs leave in the back yard in it. Come winter, I imagine it will make some mighty fine snow and ice melt. I can shovel it onto the sidewalk to keep the ice away and provide traction and help Eride avoid getting snow on her shoes.

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

Wow, one rarely sees such a clear and strong example of extreme selfishness and self-centeredness, combined with no regard for one's neighbors.

Thomas Bryce 2 years, 4 months ago

My trash service is Fine! Can you please fix our roads?

classclown 2 years, 4 months ago

jafs

Wow, one rarely sees such a clear and strong example of extreme selfishness and self-centeredness, combined with no regard for one's neighbors.

August 13, 2012 at 11:58 a.m

===============================================

How is it selfish and self centered? I think it's very thoughtful taking the time to make sure my sidewalk is walkable in the wintertime for my neighbors and general passersby.

Who else in this town would be so thoughtful and considerate? Something tells me you certainly wouldn't take the time or make the effort.

People like you speak of helping others yet it is people like me that are the ones to take action and do something that helps our fellow man. Selfish indeed.

Good day to you sir..

classclown 2 years, 4 months ago

And just so you know, that is actually my Plan B. I'll have you know that I intend to pray for warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine during the winter as to avoid having any snow in the first place.

That will help everybody out as no one will have to shovel their sidewalk at all. Streets won't need plowing nor will any parking lots.

With luck, we can all wear shorts and work on our tans this coming winter.

No need to thank me. I understand how thankless a good many of you folks are. Just enjoy it.

MarcoPogo 2 years, 4 months ago

Your martyrdom should guarantee your sainthood. I bow to your greatness and look forward to your beatification stemming from your ability to do a great many things with your load of s**t.

JackMcKee 2 years, 4 months ago

Worst city commission ever. If we ever do worse than this bunch, someone get the lights on the way out.

irvan moore 2 years, 4 months ago

yep, jack is right, worst commission ever

Take_a_letter_Maria 2 years, 4 months ago

How quickly you forget Jack. Boog, Rundle, et al make this group look like quite good in comparison.

JackMcKee 2 years, 4 months ago

No, I remember them. This group is worse.

jafs 2 years, 4 months ago

What liberals?

Cromwell appeared somewhat liberal while campaigning, but has turned away from that once elected.

Dever, Amyx, and the others never even looked liberal.

Tax abatements and incentives for developers are not appealing to liberals, who generally oppose them.

JackMcKee 2 years, 4 months ago

Cromwell has wasted a monumental amount of money as a Commissioner.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 4 months ago

Translation-- anything that doesn't entail a big fat check to you is "waste."

JackMcKee 2 years, 4 months ago

Unlike you, I pay far more in taxes than I will ever receive in benefits from the government.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 4 months ago

Got any more fish stories for us? Or maybe you and cato can compare penis length.

gccs14r 2 years, 4 months ago

Standardized carts, automated trucks, and paying more for higher trash volume all sound like a comprehensive, well thought out way to making the system more efficient and fair. What's not to like, other than changing the cart?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 4 months ago

Seems like I remember that the new trash carts were free to the city?

sleepy33 2 years, 4 months ago

" If the city sees a household is routinely setting out more trash than can fit into the cart, the city can require the household to upgrade to larger cart and the higher monthly rate that comes with it."

Well, this seems suitably vague as to cause lots of problems in the future! I've always found it quite remarkable that you're allowed to put out as much of anything you want on trash day in Lawrence, and the crews will pick it up and haul it off for you. I've lived in KCMO where you have to buy trash tags and bags over a certain size will be left behind by sanitation workers, and in OP where the neighborhood had a 'large item trash pickup' once every other year. So the piles of rubbish that are allowed and picked up come August 1st every year is amazing. Who exactly is going to keep track of this extra trash, and how much is 'routinely'? If the point is to eliminate injury from lifting, then the rule should have to be if it doesn't fit in the cart it doesn't get picked up.

deec 2 years, 4 months ago

It won't do anything to address the semi-annual curb shopping sale. The people who move out and leave their things won't be getting billed at that address any more. How will the city prove people who moved out left the trash?

sleepy33 2 years, 4 months ago

Well, if this was any other town besides Lawrence, the trash collectors would simply leave it where it is until someone puts it in the proper receptacle to be hauled off. Meanwhile, the property owner is subject to fines. The trash collectors usually leave a nice bright sticker on top of the trash telling you exactly how you violated the trash rules so you can solve the problem. Property owners get the fines, and then guess who doesn't get their security deposit back?

msezdsit 2 years, 4 months ago

The carts make a lot of sense for streamlining trash pick up and worker safety. Some how I think the benefits will end there and the guy loading the cart is going to get to pick up the tab .

One size fits all city commission.

Patricia Davis 2 years, 4 months ago

I bet the commissioners who are telling us what cans we can use are all opposed to Obamacare. Funny how that works sometimes. Actually, I've been using the city cans for several years. They are sturdy, easy to roll, the lid doesn't fly off and animals can't get inside.

I'd just like to sends a big thank you to the men who work on the trash crews. Almost without exception they have been friendly, helpful and considerate. I hope none of them loose their jobs because of this change.

Patricia Davis 2 years, 4 months ago

Hey, thanks for the correction and the chuckle. Fingers faster than brain at times!

jmadison 2 years, 4 months ago

$43 dollars per cart purchase price, how much will the city charge for rent of the cart per month?

BruceWayne 2 years, 4 months ago

I am wondering how much Cram-well and Core-less paid for the study on this matter. You know they can't fart without paying a consultant to tell them which cheek to lift. Should have voted for Svombie....

Sunny Parker 2 years, 4 months ago

Forced to purchase something. Sounds familiar!

Richard Heckler 2 years, 4 months ago

Agenda Items:

Receive update on the 1313 Haskell Ave. property.

Receive update on 1106 R.I. regarding exterior yard and structure code violations.

Regarding exterior yard and structure code violations there is a neighborhood surrounding the United Way building regarding massive numbers of rental property exterior yard and structure code violations. This area needs serious investigation.

The rental properties are likely affecting homeowners property values with the defacto support of city hall. The 1313 Haskell Ave. property and the 1106 R.I. properties are being tended to unlike this massive blight surrounding the United Way building neighborhood. This situation has been around for several years. There are a lot of homeowners in this area that are victims.

This neighborhood is challenging a Tenants to Homeowners project to provide low income rental living quarters for those 55 and over. If city hall would take an extensive inspection tour throughout this immediate area they would understand why long term single family home owners feel strongly against this concept.

There is massive demolition by neglect taking place in this area. Where is city hall when the neighborhood needs city hall?

Tenants to Homeowners constructs fine energy efficient residential plus maintains their properties which is a new concept in Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 4 months ago

"But city leaders so far haven’t been highlighting the potential to reduce employee totals as a result of this program. And they have made a point to say any reduction in staff would come through attrition rather than big layoffs. "

This is smart. Why lay off people when there is work for them? Putting people out of work does nothing for the economy or economic growth not mention makes it difficult to keep food on the table,pay rent and keep shoes and warm clothes on the family this winter.

KUGreenMachine 2 years, 4 months ago

This is the worst waste of money I've ever heard of. If trash carts are such a good idea, and saves so much money, why haven't they been free to use this entire time. Secondly, why am I forced to have an oversized trash bin that won't even fit in to my garage. Third, are they really going to end up telling us how much trash we should have? Are we supposed to horde our trash? Should we drive it around and find the nearest apartment dumpster to dump our crap? Do we burn it? Is that really what they want? If not and they continue to allow us to put whatever trash out, then what is the point of this? Could they find better use of their dollar on a training video on lifting trash and legal form where city workers sign that they understand how much weight they can lift, and how to team lift heavy objects? Should they recieve free gym memberships and have to pass a physical? Why not take the $900,000 and invest it in the start up of a recycling program. I'm pretty sure people would rather have their rates increased for a recycling program. Buy us smaller bins for that! If we all recycled that would create less waste, less trash in the landfill, and less for the garbage men to pick up. Now if this makes too much sense, I apologize, I am not as smart as the city commision.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 4 months ago

The city needs to get out of the trash business. Put the trash service out for bids. Apply the cash they get for the bid to property tax relief.

You cant be everything to everybody. Do only what you can do well, and farm out what you can't.

Again, this is an example of tax dollars being used to compete with the private sector, thus there is less money flowing into the cities bank account, which in turn, costs us all more money.

Joe Berns 2 years, 4 months ago

The city does trash pickup well. I've had ZERO complains in the 12 years I've lived here with city trash pickup.

workinghard 2 years, 4 months ago

Check Deffenbaugh's long list of complaints online.

workinghard 2 years, 4 months ago

Can seniors and disabled people have two 35 gallon cans instead of one 65 gallon can at no extra charge? The big ones may be too much to move or get trash into for some. Will they be wheelchair accessible?

classclown 2 years, 4 months ago

"Will they be wheelchair accessible?"

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They will be as accessible as the snow shovels the city insists you use despite being in a wheelchair.

So I would guess the answer would be yes.

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