Columbia City Council approves roll-cart pilot program after making a few changes

Monday, September 17, 2012 | 10:14 p.m. CDT; updated 6:31 a.m. CST, Friday, February 13, 2015

COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council approved a pilot program for a roll-cart trash collection system Monday night. However, the plan is not set in stone. The council wants certain changes to be made.

The council agreed at the pre-council meeting that even though there should be some changes made to the program, roll-cart bins should replace garbage bags for trash collection in order to see the benefit to the city and its workers. The city would use new trucks that would automate the process of lifting garbage onto the truck.


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The council suggested two changes to the pilot: using the roll carts in a concentrated area and having a trial period of less than six months. Currently, the pilot program is set up as a six-month trial with 100 volunteers per ward — a total of 600 roll carts.

Public Works Director John Glascock is in favor of the roll-cart program. He said at the pre-council meeting that the automated trash collection system would help reduce the injuries and fatalities trash collectors face on the job.

“This job is not only dirty, it’s dangerous,” he said. “We try to make it as safe as we can for employees.”

Glascock said collecting refuse is ranked No. 7 on the list of most fatal occupations, more dangerous than working as a police officer. A trash collector died on the job in Columbia in 2003, and Glascock said the automated trash collection system would prevent this from happening again.

“I think we have a duty to the workers to look into it,” First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt said.

At the regular council meeting, Chuck Headley presented a petition against the roll carts on behalf of several residents.

“We urge you to listen,” he said. “We are disappointed in the group decision concerning the pilot.”

The council first heard about the citizen-led petition against the roll carts at its Sept. 4 meeting.

While there is opposition, 107 people have volunteered for the pilot program, which Glascock said is "encouraging."

Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl, who was originally against the proposal, said he would support the pilot program if the adjustments are made.

“The points made are good, but six months is too long,” he said.

Solid Waste Utility Manager Richard Wieman said the pilot program would hopefully allow residents to see the potential benefits of roll carts.

“We want the pilot to be as realistic as possible to mimic what would be a true automated roll-cart system,” Wieman said.

If implemented as planned, volunteers would receive the roll carts in December and the experiment would begin in January. The pilot program would end in June 2013.

“As you can see, we still have many questions that need to be answered,” Headley said.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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Barbara Hoppe September 18, 2012 | 8:41 a.m.

Approval of the pilot does not mean council is in favor of the roll carts. It only means we are willing to do a limited pilot study to measure customer response and learn more about the pros and cons of the roll cart system. I am presently NOT in favor of changing the system we have, as it seems to work well and there is large customer satisfaction with the present system.

(Report Comment)
Lawrence Garvin September 18, 2012 | 9:03 a.m.

Glascock and staff failed to cost justify the benefit of converting to roll carts and it seems the city council is not insisting on hard numbers from public works. Barbara Hoppe and Helen Anthony listened to their constiuents who are overwhelming opposed to roll carts. Thank you.

Regardless of Glascock's statements about how dangerous garbage collection is accidents will still happen and I predict the annual cost of workers compensation will not be significantly reduced and if they could be eliminated it will take 20+ years to defray the initial cost of roll carts and in 20 years the carts will need replacing a few times.

Obviously public works cares nothing about senior citizens who have to handle the heavy and awkward carts. Is the city going to step forward and pay for injury claims from slips and falls from handling roll carts? I really don't think so. Perhaps the city council should reduce the Public Works salary by the amount of every claim filed against the city for injuries associated with roll carts.

What is Mike Matthes trying to achieve by pushing for roll carts other than to enhance his resume?

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin September 18, 2012 | 12:27 p.m.

Another example of the City Council simply not listening and going with senior staff administrators and/or the Chamber/REDI lobby. I say this supporting the new trash collection system, btw. But ALWAYS defer to the people on these things.

I was at an "alternative" visioning meeting a couple weeks ago that conflicted with a City Council meeting several people there said they had wanted to attend.

But "Council isn't listening to us anymore. It's the worst I've ever seen it," said one attendee. "That's why we're here and not at the Council meeting."

Other recent examples of Council/City Hall simply tuning out citizens:

1) Establishing the Blight Board despite vast citizen opposition

2) Pursuing taxes against hotels/motels to fund the perennially moribund airport

3) Rezoning all that land around College/Walnut for Odle Acres student housing, a move called "unprecedented" that in other cities would lead to a civil suit against City Hall

4) Raising sewer and utility rates despite strong and well-stated opposition from experts within City Hall, with continued increases promised.

5) Cutting city employee benefits

6) Pushing eminent domain for a new trail in Bluff Creek

And then all the past foolishness around bad moves like approving the Tiger Hotel TIF and its subsequent transfer to Glyn Laverick.

(PS Sorry, Councilwoman Hoppe. But you and Councilwoman Anthony virtually always cave in the end.)

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble September 18, 2012 | 4:15 p.m.

What were the circumstances of the 2003 death referenced in the story? Could not find an archived story in a quick search of Missourian or Tribune web sites.

An automated system "preventing" deaths from happening is an ambitious claim - an explanation of something that definitive would be helpful. Is it fair to say that the current system has prevented any deaths from happening during the last 10 years?

(It occurs to me that I may not be able to see the answers to these questions come tomorrow, but I figure they're worth asking anyway.)

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin September 18, 2012 | 5:30 p.m.

Freak accident kills trash collector
Truck runs over city employee.

By JUSTIN WILLETT, Columbia Tribune
Published Thursday, April 10, 2003

Lamar Jackson’s son stood in the middle of Glen Eagle Drive near Royal Aberdeen Street. His voice was raised; he was searching for answers.

"Oh, no," the young man suddenly wailed as he learned his father had just died. His voice carried down the quiet suburban street while a lawn mower whirred nearby.

(Report Comment)

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