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Council members provide details on trash pickup changes

Several members of the Columbia City Council are reaching out on social media and email to provide additional details on the city’s planned move to automated trash pickup.

Council received a briefing Monday before its formal session and encouraged staff to begin drafting a plan to switch to roll carts and automated trucks to pick up trash in Columbia.

Opponents of a transition to automated trash pickup and roll carts, known as the Solid Waste Advocacy Group, have been circulating a response to the presentation, repeating many of their complaints about roll carts and other aspects of the proposed change.

First Ward Councilperson Pat Fowler detailed some of the discussions that occurred during the pre-council meeting with staff in an email.

Recapping key points for residents to know about the proposed change, Fowler said the city will halt the purchase of city logo black trash bags.

Once the supply of logo bags runs out, residents will bag their trash in any kind of trash bag, so long as it does not exceed the 50-pound limit. Also, there will be no limit on the number of bags that can be placed on the curb, according to Fowler.

Fowler noted concerns expressed by some that there are city residents who cannot afford to purchase bags.

“The city will keep on hand and distribute to social service providers enough bags to assist those who qualify for free bags to meet their household/family needs,” Fowler said in the email.

Fowler added that she hoped the city would assist those who need help acquiring bags through a “single eligibility process,” where those who were eligible for other city assistance programs would be eligible for assistance getting the bags.

The move to automated trash pickup will require use of roll carts. There is confusion in the community over the cost and how many will be required.

For example, Fowler responded to an email from one resident that said, “Nowhere do I see it mentioned that the goal is to eventually have 3 carts per household — 1 for household trash, 1 for recycle and 1 for yard waste. Will we then have to pay on our own for a recycle cart and for 1 yard waste cart? If so, will there be another monthly charge per household for each recycle cart and the yard waste cart?”

Fowler said her understanding of the briefing is that the city will offer residents two or three different sizes of carts for a fixed fee, with the exception of residents who already use a commercial dumpster. Every individual household will get one trash cart that they would be responsible to pay for. Fowler also said in the email that the city would assist those who cannot afford the cart, through a program similar to the assistance of those who cannot afford bags.

Sixth Ward Councilperson Betsy Peters agreed in her own email that “the first roll cart for each property is ‘free’. There is just the monthly charge for the size of the roll cart which is part of the solid waste bill, not a separate charge to ‘own’ the roll cart.”

“If you need a second roll cart, there is a charge for that,” Peters added, noting that “the roll cart should stay with the property. There was not discussion of charging any property owner if the cart disappeared and they expect to have to replace carts over time as part of doing business.”

Other community members have questioned the cost of acquiring new trucks to pick up the trash as the current fleet does not have the lift arms to manage the roll carts.

Fowler said that as she understands it, the city will move forward in leasing automated trucks at the annual rate of $65,000 each for five years.

As for the sanitation department employees, Fowler said there will be no further discussion of outsourcing the trash collection. Current employees might see a change in their duties but will not lose their jobs, according to her email.

“My hope is that our trash collection workers will see a significant raise in their pay,” she said in her email.

Council members added they are reaching out to the community to provide additional clarity on the proposed changes to trash pickup.

According to the presentation from the solid waste division, the city will address the recycling program following a study by RRT Design & Construction. No immediate changes are anticipated to the recycling program, a sentiment expressed by Fifth Ward Councilperson Matt Pitzer on Monday.

Harshawn Ratanpal is a senior at the University of Missouri studying journalism and economics. He is the current Print-Audio Convergence Editor, or PACE, for the Missouri News Network focusing on homelessness coverage.
The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.