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DeKalb explores priorities for next garbage contract

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012 5:30 a.m. CST

DeKALB – Aldermen on the DeKalb City Council will have to decide what they feel is important in the city’s garbage collection.

They agreed Monday to email Public Works Director T. J. Moore a list of things they want in regard to garbage collections so the city can send a clear message to potential vendors.

Moore said there’s nothing wrong with its current contract with Waste Management, which expires Aug. 31. However, Moore said they have received comments from other potential vendors that the city’s last proposal made it sound like it was geared to Waste Management.

Moore told the council there is interest in the waste community to come to DeKalb, but he needs to know its “top priority” and what kind of programs it wants included.

“Is it the lowest price?” Moore said. “Is it the competitiveness of the [proposal]? Or is it necessarily the sustainability of it? ... Thirty years ago, it was trash man comes, takes it away, it’s magic. It’s really not like that anymore. It’s become a very complicated topic with a lot of different things involved.”

Because a new contract with a potential new vendor is being signed, a lot of different proposals are on the table for a new garbage collection program. The aldermen were presented with 15 considerations for the new program, each of them carrying their own set of recommendations from city staff.

Collection days could change, or the city could switch to a pay-as-you-go system, which would require residents to put stickers on bags or cans that would be taken.

A number of green options have been floated as well. The city could adopt a zero-waste program, which aims to reduce the city’s solid waste stream by more than 90 percent through actions such as outlawing the use of plastic bags at grocery stores, or stop using polystrene products. City staff had no recommendation for that particular program.

A number of aldermen sounded off on what they wanted to see in a garbage program, but as the meeting wore on, it became clear they weren’t going to make a decision Monday. Moore was asked at the end of the debate whether he felt he had gotten enough from the council to create a draft proposal. He said he did not.

One issue is whether to require toter trash cans. DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen said he thinks having residents use a kind of trash can could clean up the appearance of some city streets on trash-pickup day. But 3rd Ward Alderwoman Kristen Lash expressed reservations.

“There are three people in our household, and I think maybe we have two bags of garbage, if that, every week,” Lash said. “So I don’t want a 90-gallon, or even 65-gallon toter, taking up room in my garage if I’m only going to be putting a bag or two of garbage in it.”

Lash suggested having a special meeting on garbage, which was met with immediate no’s from other aldermen.

Povlsen suggested having council members email Moore, but Lash voiced protest, citing concern that the discussion would continue outside of public view.

Povlsen and a number of aldermen pointed out that there would still be discussions in the council’s regular meetings and Committee of the Whole meeting.

During the discussion and in an interview after the meeting, Povlsen credited the long discussion with the city’s current quality of garbage services, and that the council wants to be careful in making sure all current services are carried over to the next contract.

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