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.
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.