Public hearing attendance shows strong interest in Lincoln trash and recycling
Part two: Public comments bring to light the issue of exclusivity versus mandate

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[August 15, 2017]  LINCOLN - At the July 31st special public meeting of the Lincoln City Council, the evening began with City Administrator Clay Johnson reviewing the history of recycling and talking about the three bids received by the city for an exclusive waste and recycling hauler contract.

During his presentation, there were periods when audience members called out questions and comments. Johnson requested that they wait until the end of the presentation, then address their questions to the council.

Public Comments and questions

Benny Huskins

When Johnson did finish, the first person to go to the microphones set up for questions was Benny Huskins.

Huskins has served as a city alderman in the past and has also served on the Logan County Joint Solid Waste Agency Board. He reviewed that the 1997 mandate issued by the state of Illinois was that all counties provide recycling options to its citizens. He said, “This is a county deal, it was mandatory for the county, not the city.” He went on to say his opinion was that the city should get out of it and let the county handle it, and maintain a free market for citizens of Lincoln.

Another constituent called out from the seats commented about having to put recycling in a trash can. He said that every day, when he gets done with his newspaper he is expected to carry it outside and put in in a tote. He complained that meant he would have to go outside in the rain or snow to deposit his recycling into the tote. He said he couldn’t do that, it would be too much.

Alderman Michelle Bauer asked him what he does now and he said that once a week he goes to the collection bins. Bauer said he could do the same thing, but would just be carrying the items to the tote.

Jim Struebing – Logan County Joint Solid Waste

Jim Struebing of the Logan County Joint Solid Waste Agency talked about the history of the LCJSWA and the increase in fee per capita over the last 20 years.

He explained that the county had loaned the LCJSWA $10,000 for startup, but the agency had to pay that money back.

He said the costs of recycling have increased over the 20 years, some substantially. Plus use of recycling opportunities have increased calling for more waste bins throughout the county, all at an added cost to the agency.

He said that the agency board had in the beginning needed a long term commitment from participants to assure stability and maintain services. He also said it was important for all the municipalities to stay in the program in order for the program to survive.

He said the agency and its coordinator do much more than just collect recycling in the large bins. The job title of the coordinator includes education about recycling, organizing special collection events, such as for tires and the recent TV and computer monitor collection held in partnership with the city.

Struebing said the fee per capita of $4.50 per person per year county-wide is essential to the survival of the agency. He said that the city of Lincoln provides about 50 percent of the head count for that fee, and losing the city would jeopardize the entire program, and that it could come to an end.

Benny Huskins spoke out again, repeating that the recycling mandate is a state mandate on the county and the county would be required to pick up what the city lets go.

Struebing however, said the county would not do that.

Huskins maintained that the county should have funded the program all along. He said “the county found a way to go to the cities and make them fund it.” But he maintained, the county is still responsible for maintaining a recycling program for all Logan County residents inside or outside of a city limit.

A question from the audience was answered by Bauer. The question was if the city drops the LCJSWA, will the county pick up the $4.50 per capita charge meaning that Lincoln residents would still be paying that fee, plus the fee for trash collection. Bauer said that the city was answering the mandate in offering the recycling through the contract. Therefore no, the county would not be assuming that per capita fee.

Brittney McLaughlin

Brittney McLaughlin said that her household currently utilizes curbside recycling and trash collection and with the proposed agreement between the city and Area Disposal, her household would save money.

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She said the curbside recycling with a bin at her home was a great convenience for her household. She noted that she didn’t have to sort, she didn’t have to go one place for paper and plastic and another place for glass.

She added, “I want to thank the city for looking into something other than a 20 year renewal. A lot of you spoke about choice, to me that is a choice, and looking at a three to five year agreement is a choice.” She also said she thought it was good that the city was looking into what it can save in the face of losing $130,000 per year to the state on the income tax revenue reduction.

She added, that as a taxpayer, she has been paying for the LCJSWA contract even though she doesn’t utilize the service.

McLaughlin also brought up that the monthly fee assessed by the refuse hauler bids is based on the current number of customers in Lincoln. She said she didn’t really understand why people were opposed to saving money on a service they already have, especially considering many will be seeing an increase in services through the curbside recycling.

McLaughlin did voice one concern, based on comments from Struebing, that without the city of Lincoln participation the future of the LCJSWA was in jeopardy. She wondered if the LCJSWA did go away, would there be anyone to address the special recycling collections such as the electronics recycling done with the LCJSWA and Habitat for Humanity.

Doug Ebelherr

Doug Ebelherr was the next person to come to the microphone.

As a rental owner, he wanted to know who would be responsible for the monthly bill, the renter or the landlord.

Michelle Bauer addressed the question asking if the renters pay for collection now?

Ebelherr said he didn’t know if they all subscribed or not. He also noted that he did know some share trash collection.

First Bauer said that the city is not mandating trash collection, so if the renter doesn’t have it now, they don’t have to subscribe in the future.

Ebelherr asked how the mandate impacted that?

Bauer said at this time there is no mandate on the table. The trash haulers are being offered exclusivity. The city will decide on mandate in a separate issue.

Eric Shangraw – Area Disposal

Bauer’s comment would open up a whole new perspective on the situation as Eric Shangraw of Area Disposal corrected the alderwoman on her understanding of the word exclusivity.

According to Shangraw exclusivity and mandate are one in the same, as far as Area is concerned at least. This brought an uproar from the audience, and Bauer had to ask that everyone quiet down so Shangraw could be heard. She told the audience that Shangraw’s explanation was as important to her as it was to them.

Shangraw said that the contract would state “if you are living in a home in Lincoln, you have to have trash collection.” He went on to say the company would acquire from the city a list of all residential addresses in the city. With a contract in place, Area would deliver appropriate receptacle to every applicable address in the city and every address would be billed monthly for trash and recycling services.

The exception to the rule would be rental properties with three or more units in one location. Those rental units are normally served by a large dumpster used by all the tenants.

Ebelherr who was standing at the microphone still, then commented that it appeared that the city’s “two issues had just become one,” and the mandate would be in place if the city signed a contract with Area Disposal.

As Shangraw continued speaking he mentioned that Area would pick up city government trash at no charge under this agreement. That again brought loud objections from the audience and one person called out that the contract being forced on residents had just become a tax so the city could get free services.

Coverage from this event will continue with part three on Monday.

[Nila Smith]

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