City council irons out last few details of solid waste agreement

Send a link to a friend  Share

[November 17, 2017] 


On Tuesday evening, the Lincoln City council held one last discussion on the solid waste hauler agreement with Area Disposal, and it is expected they will vote to approve the contract with area at the Monday night meeting.

Questions that arose during the last Committee of the Whole meeting were answered by city administrator Bob Mahrt and Eric Shangraw of Area Disposal.

One of the top stumbling blocks at the last discussion was the matter of who was going to be held financially responsible for trash bills at rental properties, the landlord or the tenant. Mahrt read the language that will be incorporated into an ordinance regarding refuse. In that language, all parties will have a level of responsibility beginning with the landlord.

Mahrt said that while he realized the aldermen want the landlord to pay the bill, just as he or she does with the sewerage in Lincoln, there are times when non-compliance with the city ordinance may have to be addressed with a tenant. He said in the case of absentee landlords, the city needs to have the right to knock on the door of the tenant to discuss non-compliance.

Through this discussion, it appeared that aldermen were satisfied with the language, understanding that the landlord would be held responsible financially and for compliance, but there was also to be some burden on the tenant for compliance as well.

Ron Keller commented that he had done some of his own research and found in the community of Glenview, the ordinance is written very similar, allowing that city some flexibility in how it enforces city code pertaining to trash.

Another stumbling block at the last meeting was “the list” of occupied homes in Lincoln. Mahrt and Shangraw talked about this saying that a list had been put together and it was now under review by Area Disposal.

Shangraw said that Area’s staff are reviewing the list and currently it appears there are 4,990 occupied dwellings in the city. He said staff was looking at some address duplication. He noted 300 to 400 duplications where research has to be done to see if these are multiple household units. Regardless he said it appeared that the city would be well over the required minimum number of 4,460 customers.

Shangraw also answered the question about snowbirds who spend their winters in warmer areas such as Florida. He said Area does have a temporary suspension of service program for snowbirds. The program allows for service to be suspended for a period of one to three months. He said the minimum suspension was one month.

Kathy Horn asked about service men being deployed. She said that military people cannot determine how long they will be gone when they are deployed. Mahrt said that could be a different scenario. He said when these men and women are deployed and have to leave their home. If they are having their water and sewer shut off, then they would also have their trash cancelled. If they don’t shut off those services, then they wouldn’t be able to shut off their trash either. Horn said her experience with her own son in the military was that he does have his water and sewer shut off, so that would work for him at least, and probably be suitable for others as well.

Mahrt said that when the discussion about low income/low volume rates came up last time, he had misunderstood the intention of the city for establishing that special rate. He had taken it at face value as something for low income households, when the city had intended the special rate be used for those who generate a low volume of trash. The request for a low volume rate has now been removed from the agreement.

Shangraw said that to compensate for the deletion of the low volume rate, the new contract offers a greater discount for seniors and persons with disabilities.

Tracy Welch noted the addition of the word “disabled” to the rate. He said he had not heard that mentioned before, and Shangraw said it was included, just had not been talked about. He said the idea was to give some relief to those who may be living on fixed incomes from social security and social security disability or other disability income.

[to top of second column]

Mahrt said he felt the senior and disabled discount was good, and it would be much easier to establish the qualified households. He said coming up with what he thought was a low income plan would have been very difficult, especially since the city would have to determine only 100 households to make eligible for the plan.

Michelle Bauer talked about the agreement being for three years, with the possibility of a two year extension. She asked if the city would be able to re-negotiate the agreement at the end of the three year. She noted that in the first three years, the city will learn what works and what doesn’t and at the end of that period aldermen may feel they need to re-define the program.

Shangraw said that would be more than acceptable, it would be preferred. He said the city and Area should have such a discussion. He said it would give both parties an opportunity to talk about what they had learned and what they could be doing to better serve the citizens of Lincoln.

Keller wanted to confirm that the contract is all inclusive. He asked about the fuel surcharges of the past, and Shangraw said there would be no surcharges applied to the consumer’s bills. Keller then asked what would happen if down the road fuel prices took a large spike.

Shangraw said the language of the contract allows Area the right to come to the city and have a conversation about that, but the city has the right to refuse any adjustments.

City treasurer Chuck Conzo asked about the billing. He noted the city gives a sizeable discount to customers who pay their sewer bill annually and wondered if Area had a similar program. Shangraw said it does not. Bills come out quarterly in advance. Bauer asked if the company offered a monthly payment plan for those who couldn’t budget a quarterly amount. He said it does not “typically” offer such a program, and implied it would not do so now.

Shangraw also explained that once the contract is ratified, Area will need time to send out notices to all the customers and to deliver the bins. The start date for the contract is now March 1st, 2018.

Shangraw said notices, possibly large postcards, would be sent to each household. In addition to talking about the mandated participation, the notice would advise residents on what size of totes were available and ask them to respond back to Area with their choices. He said there is also an “opt out” for recycling, so customers can say whether or not they want a recycling tote.

Bauer asked if the opt out came with an additional cut in price. Shangraw said it did not. The rate being billed is for trash collection, and the recycling is being offered at no charge. Shangraw said the opt out was offered because some people won’t feel the need to do the recycling, so there is no need to provide them with a free container.

Once the notices have been delivered, and consumers have made their choices, then Area will begin delivering totes door to door. With 4,990 households estimated he said there was a possibility this would mean delivering about 10,000 totes which is going to take some time, thus the request to delay the start date to March 1st.

In the meantime, the city will continue to offer the recycling bins in the city lot across from Latham Park downtown. Once the mandated trash collection begins March 1st, those bins will be taken away.

Final approval of the contract with Area Disposal is expected to be an action item on the Monday, November 20th voting agenda. However, as always, the council has the right to table any action item if they feel they are not prepared to take a vote.

[Nila Smith]

Back to top