The issue of whether to reduce residential garbage pickup to once a week in Columbus arose before Columbus Council as it met Tuesday in the form of the Budget Review Committee.
Public Works Director Pat Biegler was presenting her portion of Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget, which includes reducing residential garbage service. As in past discussions on the topic, councilors were wary, citing objections from constituents.
But the difference this time is that the change is already in the proposed budget, so if council wants to take it out, it would have to find equivalent savings elsewhere in the budget, or take the money from reserves. But the reserve option really isn’t available this year, because city reserves are right at the 60-day mark, below which the city’s cash flow and bond rating could be threatened.
Councilor Bruce Huff said he could not support going to once-a-week pickup until more households in the city had access to the new, larger recycling recepticles. Currently only about 20 percent of households have either the 65- or 95-gallon rolling recepticles, Biegler said.
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Huff said he is in favor of once-a-week pickup in theory, but not at this time.
“I can’t support once-a-week until we have the new cans out everywhere,” Huff said. “We need twice-a-week until we can get everybody recycling.”
Councilor Glenn Davis also expressed some reservations, but made the point that since it’s in the budget, council would have to find the savings elsewhere. When he asked Biegler how much it would cost to take it out of the budget, he was obviously not ready for her answer, which was close to half a million dollars.
“I’m having a hard time adding all of this up,” Davis said.
Councilor Pops Barnes was more resigned to what the council faces.
“We’re in a situation where we have no choice right now,” Barnes said. “We’re in a situation where we have our back up against the wall, and we need to save some money.”In the end, no action was taken, and councilors asked Finance Director Pam Hodge to schedule another appearance for Biegler to take a closer look at the once-a-week issue, among others.