BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – City officials approved a proposal to buy 4,300 trash cans that will be required at each city address in the coming months.
At Tuesday’s regular city council meeting, councilmen, city officials, and residents talked for more than an hour about the new program that would mandate city residents to either purchase a 65-gallon or 95-gallon roll-away garbage cart at a cost not to exceed $267,000. The measure was approved 5-1 with Councilman Kevin Rink voting against the purchase.
Laura Liegois, a consultant with Municipal Connections, the company the city has contracted to help inform the public about the new program, said it will help keep the community cleaner.
Currently, city residents pay a $15 solid waste fee as part of their water/sewer bill. That bill includes picking up a maximum of two 40lb cans. That fee and program would be eliminated in lieu of the purchase of at least one of the two new carts. The 65-gallon cart would still be at the $15/month cost, while the 95-gallon can would be $17.50 per month. The smaller one is projected to hold six to eight 13-gallon trash bags, and the larger can is projected to hold 10-12 13-gallon bags.
Residents will not have the option of declining the program and the city will own the carts.
Public Works Director Larry Driscoll said the program will go a long way in helping reduce the occurrences of trash just being thrown behind properties. Building Director Doug Krogmeier showed the group about 12 slides where trash was piled up behind homes and hidden in overreaching weeds and tall grass.
“If we’re going with these containers and they have it in a certain location, we put it back at the location,” Driscoll said. “We just won’t leave it in the alley. If it’s next to the garage it will be returned to the garage.”
Varley said he’s been part of complete transitions to automated collection in other cities and said the elderly were surprised how easy it was to move the carts. But he said if there are special occasions, the city will try to make things as customer friendly as possible.
City Councilman Robert Morawitz said he was concerned about terraced homes in his district and residents who would have to roll the carts all the way down to the street. Varley said the issue would really be similar to what they are doing now, but the city could look at neighborhood protocols that may allow the carts to be left on the curbline of the street. Morawitz also said he was concerned with purchasing the carts before the logistics had been worked out.
“The biggest issue I have with this is that we haven’t taken care of the logistical issues before we do the purchase. I think we’re doing it backwards. We should figure out how to take care of these issues about elderly people, and people on terraced areas with no alleys and how we’re going to pick it up. We’re buying this stuff and how are we going to use it now,” Morawitz said.
Varley said the city could try to address those issues in neighborhoods and then would have a good idea of how to head off some issues prior to rolling out the carts.
Councilman Mark Lair asked at what point would the city charge extra if people came by and put their trash in someone else’s cart.
“We can “if” this thing to death,” Varley said. “But if something like what you said happens we’ll put it on the lift and if it goes in we’re gonna take it.”
Councilman Travis Siedel said you can’t wax your car til you buy it.
“These are just things that are going to have be tweaked. As usual, we can’t please everyone, but we’re just going to have iron out the wrinkles as we go,” he said.
Liegois said part of her contract is to be in Fort Madison through the delivery of the carts and to make sure communication services are being handled during the roll-out. She said three public meetings will be held prior to rolling out the program, plus a post card campaign outlining the program will also be conducted. The post card program will come out at least three weeks prior to delivery. Residents will be able to go online and pick which cart they would prefer, with the 65-gallon cart being the default if none were chosen.
Beau Sullivan of Rehrig Pacific Co., who will be supplying the trash carts, said the carts have a 10-year lid-to-wheel warranty and the city would be responsible for picking up the cart for repair and replacing.
Liegois said there will be a social media campaign to keep residents informed. She said there will also be an information piece included with delivery that will talk about the city’s recycling program.
“I think it will be an easy painless process,” Driscoll said. “It’s a good investment for the city and it will help keep the community cleaner.”
Councilman Rusty Andrews said the debate was good and he was happy to see all the public comments and the discussion, but he said the city has issues now that have to be managed and this program can be managed as well.
In other action, the council
• voted 5-1 to approve a resolution ratifying a settlement agreement with the Teamsters Local 238, Water Dept. Morawitz voted against the resolution saying he didn’t like that there were permissables left out of the contract.
• voted 6-0 to adopt a resolution authorizing a loan agreement for $1.7 million on water revenue capital loan notes for the city water tower rehabilitation.