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Gainesville council OKs curbside trash service
Second vote needed before measure becomes final
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Proposed changes to Gainesville’s garbage service
  • Trash will be picked up once a week from the curb.
  • Residents will receive a 96-gallon container for their trash and a separate 65-gallon container for their recyclables. Residents who throw away more trash can request a second 96-gallon container for $17 per month.
  • Recycling will be picked up by city crews on the same day garbage is collected.
  • Residents must roll their trash and recycling containers to the curb no later than 6 a.m. on the day of collection or the night before.
  • The containers must be removed the same day of garbage collection.
  • Residents who are not physically able to roll the container to the street can have a doctor sign a medical waiver that allows them to continue with back-door service. If the proposal receives final approval, the waivers will be available online, at the Senior Life Center and by calling the city’s Solid Waste Division. The waiver must be returned to the Solid Waste Division by June 15.
  • Residents may be able to request a “premium” service for weekly back-door pickup. The cost likely would be $15 per month on top of the basic service fees.
  • The city’s Solid Waste Division will continue to provide bulky item disposal and leaf and limb pickup.
  • The monthly fee for service will stay at $25.10 per household unless other services are requested.

While several residents said they would rather pay more to keep their current trash service, the Gainesville City Council approved staff-proposed changes that promise to save the city money.

The council voted 4-1 Tuesday on a measure that would reduce city residents’ trash service to a weekly curbside pickup and make city employees responsible for picking up residents’ recycling.

The measure will require a second vote to be final. If approved, the changes would go into effect on July 1.

Councilman Bob Hamrick voted against the measure. Hamrick suggested the city change to a once-a-week back-door service to save money.

He said the $425,000 startup for the program would mean the city could not go back if the proposed plan did not work. The cost would include purchasing 96-gallon trash bins and 65-gallon recycling containers for city residents as well as special equipment for the city’s trucks to lift and dump the trash into the trucks.

“Once you’re in it, you’re in it,” Hamrick said. “There’s no sort of backing up if it doesn’t work.”

Gainesville’s Public Works director, David Dockery, proposed the changes last week, saying city staff had spent months trying to find ways to reduce the solid waste division’s burden on the taxpayers and encourage residents to recycle more.

While the city has continued to raise rates each year, the city’s Solid Waste Division has consistently needed extra funding from the city’s tax-fed General Fund to pay its operating costs.

“There have been five rate increases since 2000,” Dockery said Tuesday. “But the Solid Waste Division still continues to require external funding. As a matter of fact, the current rate is a little over four times the rate it was in 2000.”

Dockery’s new proposal is expected to save the city some $300,000 and reduce the Solid Waste Division’s work force by four people.

The proposal would not change the cost of service for residents this year, but it does involve extra fees for residents who want to continue back-door pickup on a weekly basis and those who throw away more than one 96-gallon container can hold each week.

Those who are not physically able to get their trash to the curbside can get a doctor to sign a medical waiver releasing them from that requirement without any extra fees.

Aside from the rising operating costs, the current back-door service generates “several” workers’ compensation claims every year and complaints from residents who had items taken by Solid Waste workers that they did not intend to throw away, Dockery said.

The “labor intensive” back-door service also exposes the city to the risk of liabilities such as damaging property, he said.

And since the new service limits how much residents can throw away each week without paying more, Dockery said it likely will encourage residents to recycle — something he said the back-door service provides no incentive for residents to do.

“We feel that one of the biggest obstacles to recycling participation in our community is that we make it very convenient to throw things away, and we make it pretty inconvenient to recycle,” Dockery said.

One after the other Tuesday, residents asked questions about the impact of the changes or asked the council to deny the proposal.

Some were concerned they would not be able to push the container once it was filled with garbage. Others said they thought the containers would make their streets look unsightly. And there were those who said they did not mind an increase in the cost of service each year as long as the service stayed the same.

Dixon Circle resident Alice Ann Mundy said the proposed requirement for residents to take their trash to the curb could be difficult for elderly residents.

“There will be a lot of struggles for those who have downhill (driveways) — pulling them up is going to be very difficult for them, too,” Mundy said. “They may not qualify for a medical release from this.”

But in his previous presentation, Dockery pointed out that the city’s back-door service is a rarity, and most cities require residents to pull their garbage to the curb.

“There are cities with much more steep terrain than the city of Gainesville has,” Dockery said.

William Hollingsworth, a Hillside Drive resident, said he was troubled by Dockery’s suggestion that the back-door service was too difficult for city employees.

“One thing the council needs to keep in mind is that the citizens of Gainesville pay our tax dollars — and this is one of those few basic services that all the citizens of this city both benefit from and depend on,” Hollingsworth said. “The citizens of this city are not here to pay their taxes to make life comfortable for Mr. Dockery and his staff at the sanitation department. Rather, it’s the other way around. ... When government starts making rules to promote itself and denying and taking away services that the taxpayers depend on, there’s a problem there.”

Dean Dadisman, who also serves as the chairman of the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board, and resident Bob Owen said the city should take up Hamrick’s suggestion: If it must cut something, cut the back-door service to once a week instead of spending money to change to curbside service.

Other residents said the 96-gallon receptacle would cause traffic problems in driveways and on city streets. But most seemed to want to keep the service the way it is, because the “rare” service is what makes Gainesville unique, they said.

“Gainesville is one of the best cities to live in in the country,” Riverside Drive resident Amy Phillips said. “We love our (services). ... We had an increase in taxes with no problem with paying those, because we appreciate the services we get.”

The council will hold the final vote on the proposal at its 5:30 p.m. meeting April 6.