COLUMBIA — A pilot program to transition from black trash bags to roll carts and automated trucks was kicked to the curb Monday night at the Columbia City Council.
After discussing a revised plan in the precouncil work session, the council voted unanimously at its regular meeting to cancel the pilot project altogether. However, the council asked city staff to continue studying the cost-effectiveness of roll-carts.
"We have not done a good job of articulating how this change results in cost savings or increase in service for customers," Mayor Bob McDavid said in the precouncil meeting. "Our customers don't want it. That's the problem we have right now."
Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl expressed concerns that the cost savings did not justify the other difficulties with the project.
"There has to be more justification for me to go to this system in terms of dollar savings," he said. "I'm just not seeing it."
While all of of the council members voted against the pilot program, many of them suggested that the city continue to study the concept of transitioning waste management at some point and asked staff to continue developing more thorough cost-saving models.
"I still reserve the right to bring it back in a few years," Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley said. "The city needs to do a better job of educating the public and see if they want to go for it at a later time."
Solid Waste Utility Manager Richard Wieman presented the revised pilot project in the pre-council meeting. Other cities have transitioned to automated trash removal and have experienced reductions in worker's compensation costs by as much as 75 percent, Wieman said. He also cited other advantages to roll carts including reduced fuel costs, more efficient labor potential and fewer black bags in landfills.
"The industry is moving toward automated removal. An option for Columbia is to take a look and see if it fits," Wieman said. "The potential cost savings for our citizens down the road, in my opinion, is very significant."
Three representatives from a group called Citizens Against Roll-Carts were prepared to reiterate their dissatisfaction with the pilot project. The council voted down the pilot program before the group could speak, so they took the opportunity during public comments to thank the council for listening to the concerns of residents.
"People don't want this, period. That's all the reasons," Richard Shanker, a member of the group, said before the council scrapped the plan.
"Thanks again for listening to us," he told the council after it voted down the pilot project.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.