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Gainesville proposes minor changes to trash service, increase in fees
Solid waste plan also to encourage recycling, limit pickup volume
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Gainesville City Council is moving forward with a trash plan that will encourage recycling, limit pickup to 96 gallons and increase monthly fees by $7.

After working on a new solid waste plan for months, city officials said they are ready for a solution. During the council’s work session Thursday morning, Public Works Director David Dockery revealed a final proposal to be voted on Tuesday.

“Last year the City Council expressed the desire to evaluate our options, ... and proposed changes earlier this year were met with negative reception from the public,” he said. “We’ve heard the comments and propose that we continue to offer a twice-a-week pickup at the house or curbside to all our customers.”

The back-door pickup Gainesville residents have enjoyed for years comes with a few changes. The 96-gallon limit is per pickup, which would cost $32.10 in the future. Residents can continue to use their own garbage cans, and officials will create pamphlets to demonstrate how different types and sizes equal 96 gallons.

“We also envision that in situations, such as after Christmas and holidays, we’re going to be more lenient during those times,” Dockery said. “If a storm comes through, we’re not going to impose a limit on curb refuse pickup. Our goal is not to be onerous on the citizens but to impose moderate limits on volume and extreme situations.”

Garbage should be in securely tied, properly stored plastic bags, and all garbage must be in cans, according to the proposed ordinance. The can must be placed 10 feet from the house, visible from the driveway, or at the curb. It also must be placed in an area where solid waste employees can access the can without entering enclosures such as fences and garages.

“We want the cans to be visible from the driveway so we don’t have to look and so it’ll limit worker’s compensation,” Dockery said. “We shouldn’t enter structures where there are unrestrained animals. We think it’s a reasonable restriction on where the cans are placed.”

The ordinance will become effective Jan. 1. Curbside refuse, such as leaves and yard remnants, will continue once a week, as well as the weekly recycling collection. Special service fees apply to pickup of large items such as furniture. Pickup beyond the 96 gallons will cost residents an additional $25 per month, and Dockery hopes it’ll encourage them to recycle.

“We’ve heard very clearly that city officials and citizens would like to increase participation in the recycling program, and that’s what we want,” he said. “By adopting this, we’re taking at least the first step of taking away the largest disincentive to recycling by providing the limit.”

The city will take on the recycling program that is currently outsourced, and officials are applying for a grant that will fund larger 32- to 35-gallon containers, doubling the current size given to residents. For now, residents who use more than the 18-gallon container can request a rollable cart.

“This is really a best fit for the city and county,” said Brandie Kochan, Hall County Public Works school and county recycling coordinator. She’ll begin helping the city’s program in January. “The question comes up a lot with teachers, students and citizens of ‘How do I go green?’ It starts with recycling, and I’ll work with Gainesville and Hall County to promote participation with residents and customers.”

Public works employees are also developing an education plan to explain to residents why recycling is important and how to do it in the home. For a several months, city officials were considering reducing trash service to a once-weekly curbside pickup, but residents were opposed to the plan, and many said they’d be willing to pay more to maintain the twice-a-week service.

“In a survey, 71 percent who responded said they wanted no reduced service, and 72 percent would support a $7 or more increase,” Dockery said. “We understood that to be one of our major directives to cover the obligations.”

Since 2000, $4 million has been transferred from the city’s general fund to the solid waste fund to support services, causing five rate increases. Under the new ordinance, recycling profits can help keep the service from new subsidies, Dockery said.

“Those who came to the public information meetings were in favor of a fee increase, but I’m afraid that those who would not were people not at the meetings, and we may hear something out of these folks over time,” said council member George Wangemann. “We should keep track of any comments that come in ... so we can be more sensitive and understanding of the complaints of citizens. It’s quite an increase and does cause the program not to be subsidized. But the heart and soul of the whole thing is getting people on board.”