City council irons out last few
details of solid waste agreement
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[November 17, 2017]
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
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
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
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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
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.