By Sue Botos
Residents will have the chance to air their feelings about recycling, the city’s iconic “scooters” and everything trash this summer.
Mayor Pam Bobst has announced that city administrators will call another public meeting in July or August to discuss a pair of alternatives for the collection of trash and recycling. A similar meeting was held last year, at which the consensus was overwhelmingly in favor of the status-quo backyard collection by scooter. But administrators have noted that over the past year, a stronger interest in recycling, plus concern over city finances, have swayed some residents to favor privatization.
At a recent City Council session, Bobst said that the two options include the hiring of an outside company at no cost to residents, or a system that would include a “fully commingled recycling” method and use of modified scooters, similar to those now on city streets. This alternative would cost all residents an out-of-pocket fee, whether or not they bring their trash cans to the curb.
“We spend $2.3 million (yearly) for something we take in $680,000 for,” Bobst stated, referring to the amount of property taxes earmarked for refuse collection. The balance must come out of the city’s general fund. She also stressed that any funds realized from passage of a proposed 0.5-percent income tax hike in November will be used strictly for capital improvements and not for trash collection. However, savings from trash collection privatization may be put toward improvements to city buildings, like the civic center.
Bobst explained that privatization would be similar to the process described last year, with automated pickup of trash curbside. She emphasized, at that time, that no city employees would lose their job as a result, and would be reassigned to other areas of the service department.
At the 2012 public meeting, Diane Bickett, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, reported this program would save the city $1,508,047 the first year, and nearly $5 million over the next five years.
The second option, according to Bobst, would involve fully commingled recycling, using a new type of scooter that could be retrofitted with a “dump truck”-style body to accommodate the expected larger amounts of recyclable materials.
The recycling situation has recently come to the forefront of resident concern, with groups like the newly established Green Team calling for more participation. Safety service Director Mary Kay Costello rode along with service workers on the back of a city packer truck the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and noted the large amount of recyclable material that gets thrown in the trash.
Bobst added that not only would the city receive income from sending items to a recycling facility, but less material would need to be hauled to landfills, saving more money. In addition, commingled recycling would mean that residents would no longer have to separate paper, plastic and other materials.
Alternative No. 2 would keep rear yard pickup as it is, but at an additional charge. While Bobst said exact calculations are still being made, estimates run between $8 to $12 monthly per household.
“We’ve heard a lot of comments on both sides (pro and con),” Bobst said, adding that the options are being considered for residential accounts only. A program for businesses has not yet been considered.
Bobst said she will continue to work with Bickett, Republic/Allied Waste and others. Once details have been worked out, she will ask residents for their feedback and schedule a meeting date.