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Gainesville officials get an earful on trash service changes
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In other business
The Gainesville City Council on Tuesday gave initial approval to an ordinance that would raise fines for parking violations in the city limits. The ordinance would also specifically make it illegal to park on a yellow curb in the city limits. The ordinance will not be final until a second vote, which is set for April 20.
Here are the proposed changes to parking fines:
  • First offense for parking in a fire lane, $100
  • Parking in a handicapped zone, $250
  • Parking on a sidewalk, $50
  • Parking in employee-parking spaces or lot without a permit, $50
  • Other parking violations, $20
Ashley Fielding

They weren’t planning to take comments on the city’s solid waste service, but the Gainesville City Council got a few.

On Tuesday, the council did as it said it would and voted to put on hold plans to change residents’ garbage service to a once-weekly curbside pickup until after the city could study cutting the current back-door service to once a week.

Mayor Ruth Bruner told residents at the meeting that the city would study cutting the current service for eight weeks beginning April 19, and would ask for residents’ input at two separate public meetings in July.

Then, she told residents that the council did not plan to take residents’ comments on the issue Tuesday night.

“We’ve heard from many, many of you, and we’ve kept all those communications — all the e-mails, all the notes from the people who have called — and we’re taking those seriously and looking at all the different suggestions you’ve made. And continue, if you have new suggestions, to let us know what those are as we go through the pilot project,” Bruner said. “So I appreciate you being here, and you’re certainly welcome to stay — anytime. You’re welcome at any of our meetings. We won’t have comments on solid waste tonight.”

But after the council dealt with two proclamations honoring Challenged Child and Friends and the upcoming Spring Chicken Festival, residents had a chance to air their issues.

Those who did so talked only about solid waste.

Joan Alford, a Crestview Terrace resident, gave council members a list of suggestions of things to look at during the eight-week study period.

She said she had concerns about whether the city’s Solid Waste Division should have to pay for itself without using tax dollars.

The original proposal was meant as a solution to keeping from raising trash collection rates annually and to help the Solid Waste Division operate off of user fees instead of tax dollars.

She also said city officials should make sure that there are no untapped revenue sources — such as a lack of enforcement of current solid waste ordinances that may generate fees for the department — that could fund the department.

“I would like to see research done to look at cities similar to Gainesville ... to look at, are these solid waste departments paying for themselves?” Alford said. “I’m not sure that’s an appropriate goal that’s in the best interest of the citizens of Gainesville.”

One woman stood in the crowd and asked why the city thought an eight-week study would be long enough.

Bruner had the city’s Solid Waste superintendent Dan Owen answer.

“I think eight weeks is going to be more than enough to determine what we want to determine,” Owen said. “I see two weeks is going to be a disaster. ... I think somebody’s going to be shocked by the looks of the city in two weeks’ time, and what it’s going to get to.”

As Bruner once again tried to move on, Councilman Robert “Bob” Hamrick said the city should make sure the eight-week study was thorough.

“If we’re going into a study thing, let’s be sure that we study every angle just to be sure that’s the proper way to go or whatever,” said Hamrick. “If it takes longer ...”

As others tried to speak, Bruner put the decision up to the council whether or not to allow more comments on solid waste.

“Madame Mayor, this is (the part of the agenda for) ‘citizens issues’ — let’s hear them,” Hamrick said.

Louise Kennedy, a resident of Honeysuckle Lane, then asked the council for a copy of the study city employees conducted to decide that curbside service would be the best option for the city.

“I would like to see some facts and some figures,” Kennedy said.

Bruner said the study was a yearlong study, and City Manager Kip Padgett said Owen would provide a copy.

Mary Lou Melvin told the council that the plans for solid waste were a beautification issue. She said it was important to put a “great face on Gainesville.”

She told council members that the city should not strive to be like other cities when it comes to beautification.

“We’re very proud people. We don’t want to be like everybody else ...” Melvin said. “I want you to bear in mind that it’s not all about money ... but it’s about beautification.”

With the upcoming pilot program, city residents who currently receive garbage pickup on Mondays and Tuesdays should have their garbage ready by 7 a.m.

Recycling will not be affected.

The program will continue until June 10. City officials will then hold two public meetings — one at 5:30 p.m. July 15 at the Georgia Mountains Center and at 5:30 p.m. July 22 at the Gainesville Civic Center — to discuss the results of the program.

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