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Public will have chance to weigh in on trash plan
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Gainesville City Council meeting

What: Public hearing and initial vote on changes to residents’ trash service

When: 9 a.m. Tuesday

Where: Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St., Gainesville

Gainesville residents will have a chance to tell the City Council what they think about a proposal to cut their trash collection service.

City staff on Thursday proposed an ordinance that reduces the city’s solid waste collection service. The ordinance also makes the city’s solid waste division responsible for collecting residents’ recycling.

Public Works Director David Dockery said the proposed ordinance will save the city from using taxpayers’ dollars to support the service, and Assistant City Manager Angela Sheppard said the proposed change likely will encourage residents to recycle more.

The council is scheduled to vote on the measure at a 9 a.m. meeting Tuesday, but will open up the floor for public comment before the vote, said City Manager Kip Padgett.

Currently, the city picks up residents’ trash twice each week, and provides a rare back-door pickup service. Residents’ recycling service is handled by a private company.

Dockery proposed a plan that would require the city to purchase 96-gallon containers and large recycling bins for city residents to fill with their refuse and take to the curb once each week. The plan also would require the city to fit trash collection trucks with equipment that will lift the receptacles and dump their contents into the trucks.

The plan calls for an up-front investment of about $425,000, Dockery said, but will guarantee that the city can provide the service operating on fees alone.

City officials also hope that by providing the trash receptacle, and limiting how much residents can send to the landfill each week without penalty, residents will recycle more.

“You need to be limited to that 95, 96-gallon container, and so hopefully people will start diverting some of the trash into the recycling, because there’s so much that can be recycled that just people aren’t,” Sheppard said. “We’re hoping that will be an incentive and encourage people.”

But residents will be allowed to pay an extra $17 per month for an extra 96-gallon trash can, Padgett said.

“And if someone needs an additional recycling container, we’ll provide that at no cost,” Dockery said.

While council members had questions about what one called a “monumental change,” they generally agreed to bring the issue to a vote on Tuesday.

Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras quizzed city employees about the proposed curbside pickup. Residents who do not have someone physically able to roll the can to the curb could get a medical waiver signed by a doctor and continue the back-door trash service,

Dockery said. The waiver would need to be renewed annually.

But Figueras said it may be difficult for elderly residents to get to the doctor to have the form signed in time for the proposed July 1 start date of the new program.

“I’m living in reality, y’all, OK, and just think about it, because there are lots of elderly people who live in your wards, too,” Figueras said. “We need at least a span of time for a person to have a medical waiver is what I’m saying — to go get it, to get it in and actually get it working.”

Sheppard said the city could make the waiver forms available “very soon,” giving residents more than three months to return the forms to the city.

“I think it’s really best if — July 1st — here’s the change and this is what we’re going to do,” Sheppard said. “It can confuse the issue if we have some that, ‘Well, we just don’t have their medical waiver yet but they say they’re going to get it to us,’ and, you know, how do we deal with all those situations?”

Councilman George Wangemann said he generally agreed with the new program since it saved the city money, but said he would like the council to hold a public hearing on the matter to see what residents think of the proposed plan, which he called a “monumental change.”

“I want to make sure that our citizens are OK with this as well,” he said.

The issue will be heard at the council’s 9 a.m. meeting Tuesday at the Georgia Mountains Center.

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