What: Meetings regarding solid waste services in Gainesville
Where: The Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St.
When: 5:30 p.m. today
Where: The Gainesville Civic Center, 830 Green St.
When: 5:30 p.m. July 22
Following a test run of once-weekly back-door garbage collection in Gainesville, the city is ready to present its findings to the public and hear the community’s thoughts on trash pickup in the area.
The first of two informal public meetings will be held today at 5:30 p.m. in the Georgia Mountains Center. The second meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. July 22 at the Gainesville Civic Center.
“What we’re really looking for is feedback from the public about what they want out of their solid waste service in Gainesville,” said Public Works Director David Dockery.
In March, the Public Works Department proposed an ordinance change that would allow garbage pickup service to go from twice-a-week back-door pickup to once-a-week curbside service as a money-saving measure.
Dockery said over the past 10 years, an average of $300,000 had to be transferred from the general tax fund into the solid waste fund to allow the twice-weekly service to persist. He said the city council did not want to continue to have to transfer that money to keep the solid waste division financially sound.
“It all boils down to the expense of the current level of service that we provide,” Dockery said.
After some negative public response, the initial proposal to switch to curbside pickup was put on hold, and city officials chose to try the once-a-week back-door pickup pilot before making any final decisions.
At today’s meeting, the community will hear the results of the pilot program, get more information about the possibility of privatizing trash pickup and learn about the reasons behind changes to the solid waste division. Attendees will also have a chance to voice their opinions and ask questions.
“The information that we glean from the public comment that we gather at the public meetings over the next two weeks will be taken back to the City Council and summarized,” Dockery said. “Then, they’ll have a good feeling of what their constituents want in a solid waste service.”
He said throughout the eight-week pilot program, officials fielded nearly 600 phone calls and received “considerable negative feedback” about the project.
Some complained about not having enough trash receptacles to accommodate the amount of trash building up throughout the week. Others were confused about the pickup schedule.
Dockery said he cannot yet disclose the results of the study or his own opinions on what a viable option would be for the city.
But Gainesville resident Bobbett Holloway already has her thoughts put together.
“It’s still my opinion that we need to recycle,” Holloway said. “Our whole city needs to recycle. I think that’s a huge part to the solution for the landfill and for the garbage pickup and everything.”
She said the back-door pickup was too costly and dangerous. She’s ready to move on to something new, like the curbside service she saw while visiting her daughter in Arkansas.
With the original curbside service proposal, the city would purchase 96-gallon trash bins for residents along with new equipment that could lift the receptacles from the curb and pour the trash into trucks.
Holloway suggested allowing for some level of choice about the size of the trash bins, letting some residents have smaller bins if that’s all they need.
She also opposed switching to a privatized service.
“Turn it over to the private sector, and we don’t have a say so ever again,” Holloway said. “And I don’t like that idea very much myself.”
Joan Alford, another Gainesville resident, doesn’t want to see any changes to the trash service yet. She said the city needs to work on enforcing existing rules before it makes its next move.
“Why not take this year and use the ordinances that they have on the books, enforce them and get people to follow what needs to be done?” Alford said. “If they can do that and they still feel like they can save money with the new program that they’re talking about, then I would be more inclined to support it.”
She said she’s seen messes on city sidewalks as people don’t follow the rules regarding trash pickup.
“My feeling is that I don’t trust them to do any better with these huge cans they’re talking about getting,” Alford said. “And that is my concern.”
And officials want to hear more concerns, questions and opinions at the meetings.
“We encourage everybody that has an interest and a stake in solid waste service in Gainesville to come out and let their voice be heard,” Dockery said.