Mayor's budget calls for once-a-week garbage pickup

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s proposed FY2016 budget calls for reducing household garbage pickup to one day a week, resulting in a projected savings of almost $500,000, according to the mayor’s budget letter.

Another proposed change in policy for picking up yard waste would save another $495,000, her letter said.

The city runs trucks to households five times a week currently, Tomlinson said. Twice a week, it’s for household garbage and once a week each for recycling, yard waste and white goods, or discarded appliances. That has two effects on the city, she said.

“There is an obvious cost associated with that level of service,” Tomlinson said. “But I think one thing that’s not fully appreciated is the incedible impact to our capital investment in our garbage trucks.”

The city currently has 56 garbage truck that need replacing, and 44 of those are labeled as critical or emergenciy replacements by the city’s maintenance departmernt. Replacing theem all would cost the city $12.6 million, Tomlinson said.

In addition to reducing the wear and tear on trucks, Tomlinson said once-a-week pickup should encourage more recycling, thus prolonging the lifespan of the city’s landfill.

It would also free up three drivers, trucks and fuel to be transferred to picking up recycling, which is where the$495,000 in savings is found.

The other change in refuse commection would ban the use of plastic bags for yard waste and require it to be put either trash cans or in biodegradable paper bags.

Currently crews on theese trucks must cut oppen the plastic bags and empty them into the truck, then store the cut bags in large plastic bags for transport to the landfill. The city currently spends more than $23,000 on plastic bags and $1,500 on boxcutters just for this service, in addition to the fuel cost for hauling them to the landfill.

Because the paper bags can be thrown into the inert landfill, picking up yard waste will be a much quicker chore, clearing three more trucks and drivers and fuel to be reassigned to recycling, saving another $495,000.

“It’s something that we need to consider, that we need to thoughtfully consider,” Tomlinson said.

At Large Councilor and Budget Review Committee Chairman Skip Henderson said because of the fiscal situation facing the city, council has no choice but to seriously consider the mayor’s proposal this time.

“It’s gotten to the point that we have to look closely at everything,” Henderson said.

He said council also has to address the “dilapidated fleet” of garbage trucks.

“When they’re cannibalizing trucks to keep other trucks running, that’s a recipe for disaster,” Henderson said. “It’s a genuine ‘pay me now or pay me later’ situation.”

At Large Councilor Judy Thomas said she cannot predict how council will vote on the budget item, but it’s something they need to take a hard look at.

“We need to settle it one way or the other for good,” Thomas said. “It’s been dragging on for years now, and we need to settle it once and for all.”