Public hearing attendance shows
strong interest in Lincoln trash and recycling
Part three: Terminology becomes a
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[August 15, 2017]
- As the evening progressed at the special meeting of the Lincoln
City Council, most of the comments coming from the audience were
against the city entering into a waste hauler agreement that would
offer exclusivity to the hauler and establish curbside recycling,
versus the program currently offered through the Logan County Join
Solid Waste Agency.
When it was realized that in the Area Disposal bid at least, the
words “exclusive” and “mandate” were one in the same, aldermen
expressed that this was a concern and something they needed to think
Alderman Tracy Welch
Alderman Tracy Welch commented on the entire situation from his
He noted that this whole scenario began out of a concern for
renewing a 20-year, virtually unbreakable contract with the LCJSWA.
He said that making a new 20-year agreement with the LCJSWA would
mean the city was committing to whatever happens in the next 20
Welch noted that recycling in the beginning had some financial
benefit, but now it has very little. He noted, “Now, instead of
getting a check for a load of plastics, they are giving a check.” He
said in all likelihood that was going to be the trend and costs
would go up for the LCJSWA and the fees to the city would have to go
up as well. With the 20-year agreement, the city would be locked in.
He said it was a challenge for aldermen to always look at how to
save money for the city. He added, “In my opinion, we are not trying
to find ways to tax you. This impacts all of us too.”
Welch went on to say that he felt the aldermen were looking for a
better way to serve the citizens and help save the city some money
at the same time. However, he said he was hearing the voice of the
people, and the people are not in favor of a contract with an
exclusive waste hauler. He said as a result, if he were called on to
vote at this moment, he would vote the voice of his constituents and
say “no” to a waste hauler contract.
Alderman Steve Parrott
Alderman Steve Parrott also commented on the mandate. “From our last
meeting when it was conveyed to us that this was not a mandate, then
tonight coming to find out that it is a mandate, has soured a lot of
people in here, including myself. For that reason right now, I would
currently have a ‘no’ vote.”
Kevin Bateman – Logan County Board
Kevin Bateman, a member of the Logan County Board came to the
microphone. He delivered the following comment: “You should commend
your city council for taking this on. Long before it came to them it
came to the county. And where that discussion had the biggest hiccup
for myself and a few other people was for you that sit here tonight
and say that you want a choice.
“When Joint Solid Waste came to us, the choice was a 20-year
contract and there’s no way out. That is not a choice, especially
when you’re talking about turnover of elected officials. I was one
of those that started the argument that I want to shorten the length
of the contract, even though, just as Michelle (Bauer) said, these
guys do a wonderful job. I don’t want to lock-in myself, the people
who will hold office after me, and the people that will hold office
after them to a 20-year contract, and they didn’t want to budge on
“Joint Solid Waste even came to a county board meeting and we asked
why the contract was written that way and Mr. Struebing said it was
written that way for 20 years so that you could not get out. How is
that American? Someone yelled communism (an earlier heckling from
the audience during the meeting). There is no choice here (with
LCJSWA), so whether they go with the status quo or go with the
options they are talking, I have to commend them because they are
giving you a choice as a taxpayer.”
Mitzi Rohlfs – Logan County Joint Solid Waste Agency
Mitzi Rohlfs of LCJSWA said that while the agency has maintained
that it needs a 20-year agreement, it would also revisit that
portion of their contract.
Lincoln resident John Eckley
John Eckley said that he had heard very little comments in favor of
the curbside collection program. He said he felt like that curbside
collection of recycling, and the collection of large items monthly
would have to improve the overall situation. He speculated that if
Area Disposal were going to pick up the big things routinely, the
county would see fewer people “dumping their old mattresses” on
rural roadsides. Eckley’s comment garnered a hearty round of
applause, indicating that not everyone in the room was opposed to
the proposed plan.
Eckley went on to say that mandated was a hard word, but to remember
that the proposed contract is only three years, and if the people
don’t like the program, the city can change it. His comment led to a
few sidebar comments from members of the audience who said in
essence that if the city isn’t listening now, why would they listen
in three years?
[to top of second column]
Alderman Michelle Bauer
Alderman Michelle Bauer commented that the city is listening, and that the city
is trying to do something in the best interest of the citizens. She said that
the city would listen in three years if the program isn’t working for citizens.
She also commented in answer to a complaint about the two-point-five percent
increase in fee annually from Area Disposal. She said that with this proposal,
the citizens of Lincoln will know what to expect, whereas price increases from
LCJSWA are unpredictable.
Bauer also commented that the “mandate” was a concern for her now. She said, “I
don’t like to be told who we have to use. I absolutely get that.” However, she
added that there are people in the city who are not using any trash service,
they are “sharing” trash or dumping illegally out in the county. A mandated
trash service could improve those conditions.
Other comments and questions
Richard Sinks said he felt that in attempting to solve a problem, the city had
created a bigger one, and that creating a mandated program for the citizens of
Lincoln was not right.
As the night wore on, some of the audience members began discussing and sharing
their differences of opinion with each other. Mayor Seth Goodman asked that all
comments and questions be addressed to the city and that personal debates be
held outside of the meeting.
Eric Shangraw of Area Disposal also drew attention to the fact that Area employs
locally. Many of the employees of the company were in the audience and he asked
them to stand.
This led to comments from the audience that those employees would suffer if the
city chooses to go with Advanced Disposal over Area Disposal. In answer to that,
Welch commented that the city is aware that Area Disposal has done a lot for the
community, and employs local people.
It was also mentioned that the city does not have to go with the lowest bid, it
has the option to go with the bid they feel is in the best interest of the
Wanda Lee Rohlfs wanted to know what the city would do if it entered into a
contract with a hauler and down the road, the constituents were not happy. The
answer was that the city can always revisit its decision. It can drop the
contract, rebid the contract, or go back to LCJSWA if it feels that is the best
The question came twice from audience members, once from Wanda Lee Rohlfs
addressing Johnson directly, if the bids were based on 4,400 customers and the
mandate moved that customer based to approximately 5,000; what impact would that
have on the price to the consumer. City Administrator Clay Johnson said that was
not a question he could answer at the moment, primarily because it was a
conversation to be had with the bidders.
At the two-hour-10-minute mark it was Lincoln resident Bill Gossett who stood
and proposed that it was time to call it a night. The city would go on to field
three more questions before closing.
Johnson was asked about the escape clause written into the bid agreement with
the waste haulers. He had earlier indicated that the contract could be broken
with only seven days notice. He was asked if it would really be that easy. If
constituents continued to be dissatisfied with the decision made to mandate a
waste hauler, could the council honestly just simply say, “we’re done.” Johnson
said indeed, it would be just that easy, and could occur at any time during the
contract period. He added there were some legal requirements involved such as
written notice, but the city can get out of the agreement at any time.
Jim Struebing offers a rebuttal to Bateman
Mayor Goodman asked Jim Struebing to report on how many other municipalities
have already agreed to the 20-year contract.
When Struebing came to the microphone he began by offering a rebuttal to Kevin
Batemen saying that apparently Bateman’s opinions didn’t carry much weight
because the county board had voted 11 to 1 in favor of the new 20-year
He said that New Holland, Middletown, Emden, Atlanta, Broadwell, and the county
had already approved the 20-year agreement. Like Lincoln, the towns of Mount
Pulaski and Elkhart are still looking at other options.
At the end of the July 30th meeting, aldermen tabled the issue for further
discussion on August 15th at the Tuesday night Committee of the Whole.
Post Script: On Monday, August 7th, Jim
Struebing of the LCJSWA came to the city council meeting and said the agency
was willing to offer a five-year agreement and a six-month notice escape clause.
He did not go into great detail, but said he would explain further when he
returns on August 15th for the Committee of the Whole.