COLUMBIA — Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl isn't convinced that switching to a roll-cart system for trash collection is a good idea, and he wants the city to slow down on the proposal and let the public voice its opinions.
The city's Public Works Department in May announced it was interested in adopting the roll-cart system, which would include the purchase of 10 natural gas fueled trucks and 44,000 roll carts at an estimated cost of $5 million.
The purpose of the roll carts would be to eliminate the dangers that come with having workers manually collect trash and throw it into trucks. The new trucks would be able to empty the carts mechanically.
Since the proposal was initiated, residents have debated whether the idea is a good one. People who attended a public meeting last week complained that the carts would be heavy, that they would be an eyesore and that they might blow over in heavy wind. City officials also have acknowledged that the new trucks might have trouble picking up carts on narrow streets and in neighborhoods where many people park on the roads.
The proposed city budget for fiscal 2013 had a public hearing at Monday night's council meeting. The budget includes money to buy the trucks and carts. The Public Works staff, meanwhile, has suggested the city could try a pilot project, in which people could volunteer to use the carts to see whether they — and the city — like the system better.
Although the city would have to spend $2.4 million for the carts, the Public Works Department estimates it would save $92,632 per year by eliminating some workers and the expense of paying workers compensation claims.
Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl, however, is skeptical.
“I haven’t seen a single cost-saving idea with the roll carts,” Kespohl said Monday morning. “Everything I’ve seen tied to roll carts aren’t cost-saving in the least bit.”
The council decided to table the roll cart amendment at the meeting Monday night until the second meeting of the month on Sept. 17.
The money will be in a contingency fund in the budget until the decision is made, Kespohl said at the meeting.
“We want the public to know the money is set aside but not busy,” he said.
Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said before the meeting that he is more optimistic about the program.
“Theoretically, this could be a good thing,” he said. “I think the proposal has merit in regards to cost-saving, but we need to learn more to see that there. I think a lot of the public who disagrees with this doesn’t necessarily know all the information about cart sizes and costs.”
Both councilmen hope to encourage residents to speak their minds about the idea.
“We need to encourage people to go to city hall to speak about it,” Trapp said. “There are people who think they don’t generate enough trash for the carts, and hearing from them, maybe they could learn more information about the carts.”
Kespohl hopes to have a public meeting specifically designed for discussion about the roll carts.
“I want there to be a special public forum where the city can talk about their likes and dislikes about the roll carts,” Kespohl said. “There are people who want the carts, and I want to know why. There’s more research that needs to be done about this until any further decision can be made.”
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