The City Commission of Arkansas City met Sept. 15 to discuss an ongoing plan to introduce curbside recycling to residents.

recycling trailer
Photo by Andrew Lawson/City of Arkansas City

The city’s two recycling trailers would remain in place under a plan for a new pilot program for curbside recycling east of the Walnut River.

This plan has been in the works for several years and several key components of achieving the goal already are in place.

One of the first objectives in the plan included the purchase of four new garbage trucks, a significant investment made over the course of the past two years.

The Sept. 15 study session provided the commission with an update on what the next steps of the plan might entail, including four-day routes and new driver positions.

Four-day trash schedule

One of the components that has been in the plan since before the truck purchases would rearrange the weekly trash pickup schedule so that trash only is collected four out of five weekdays.

Those days would be Monday through Thursday, with Fridays reserved for commercial sanitation, vehicle maintenance, recycling operations, special requests and other miscellaneous work.

This will change some routes considerably, but will mean far fewer route changes on short weeks due to holiday closures.

Since the trash schedule will be complete in four days regularly, the day of pickup only will shift backward when a holiday is on any weekday other than Friday.

For example, if your trash ordinarily is collected on Mondays, it would be picked up on Tuesday on the week of Memorial Day or Labor Day.

The transition also will provide less confusion for customers, as the route map will not change on shortened weeks unless there are two city holidays in one week, as on Thanksgiving week.

“It will also save us on advertising costs,” said City Manager Nick Hernandez. The current pickup schedule is altered each time a short week occurs, which requires advertisement of the changes.

Curbside recycling could be conducted on Fridays once the schedule is changed.

Staff discussed educating the public about the potential change through October and making the change in November, but no firm decisions were reached Sept. 15.

Pilot curbside recycling

A potential pilot study of curbside recycling has been scheduled to take place soon after Arkalalah.

While no definite change was made in the pickup schedule, commissioners may review the program during a commission meeting in the near future.

The program initially would be rolled out to customers east of the Walnut River.

Excess, unused 60-gallon carts that were ordered when the city went to curbside pickup several years ago would be re-designated as recycling containers with a different color of plastic lid.

The cost of the new lids is the only expense for rolling out this program on a small scale.

City officials indicated there are no plans to get rid of the two large recycling containers at Cowley College and Spring Hill Golf Course.

Nor is there any plan to end recycling on Saturdays at the Public Works shop, although those operations would move to Fridays to reduce overtime if four-day routes become a reality.

Public Services reorganization

Public Works Director Eric Broce suggested a change in organization, as well.

The suggested change would eliminate a position — sanitation lead — and create four new “driver” positions. The drivers would be somewhere between a lead and a supervisor.

Commissioners requested more clarification on the drivers’ specific responsibilities when the proposed change to the city’s pay ordinance is brought before them at a future meeting.

The goal of this change would be to increase the responsibility and accountability of the crews collecting refuse. “I don’t want to sound like a hard-ass, but (the new trucks were) a major investment,” Broce said.

The new position also would come with a pay increase for the drivers. Sanitation workers currently top out at a lower maximum salary than many other comparable cities, Broce explained.

The reorganization would charge the drivers with ensuring maintenance is performed regularly on the garbage trucks.

The financial impact of the organizational change would equate to approximate a $25,000 increase per year in payroll.

Increasing revenue streams

Staff also presented ideas to increase the revenue of the sanitation division without raising residential rates.

Some of those ideas included creating a franchise fee for other trash companies that collect large roll-off dumpsters for Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, KanPak and Walmart.

There is an ordinance in place that states those outside companies are supposed to seek approval before any dumpster is put into place. The city has not been enforcing that law, however.

Franchise fees of 6 percent already are collected by the city from other utilities such as electricity, natural gas and telecommunications.

Another option would be for the city to invest in its own roll-off dumpsters so it could provide the service to the three companies itself.

However, that would require the capital investment purchase of several dumpsters, which could cost more than $100,000. The profit gains might not equal that cost for several years.

It is estimated that the addition of a franchise fee could increase revenue by $60,000 to $90,000 per year.

The third option discussed is charging for commercial recycling services that currently are provided for free.

Broce said the division has seen a large uptick in usage of these services, and at this point, it is costing the city in both money and time to provide the service for free.

Commission candidate Kanyon Gingher objected to rushing into any changes to commercial sanitation and recycling, saying the issue should be studied more closely and implemented later.

Commissioner Jay Warren asked for more research to be done and for staff to reach out to the companies that would be affected. He mentioned doing something as part of the 2019 budget.

No formal action was taken on any of the proposals at the study session. Some items that were discussed might come up at one of the commission meetings in October, however.

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