By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Only 662 households signed up for the city of Quincy's new flat-fee, automated garbage collection program during a monthlong enrollment period that ended Friday, well below the goal of 1,000.
Under the program, residents will be required to buy 95-gallon totes for $60 apiece and will then be charged $12.99 per month for garbage collection. Both the cost of the totes and the monthly fees will be added to the quarterly water bills for each household.
The city plans to spend $570,000 to buy two automated garbage trucks to handle the totes.
Quincy residents -- there are approximately 14,000 households -- also have the option of continuing to have their garbage and recycling collected by the city or by private haulers. The city increased its fee for garbage stickers to 75 cents from 50 cents on May 1.
"A lot of people could be waiting to see what happens with (the new program) because it is early," Director of Administrative Services Glenda Hackemack said Friday in explaining why the number of sign-ups failed to meet expectations. "It will be several months out before we'll be running the program."
Mayor Kyle Moore last fall proposed privatizing garbage and recycling services, but backed away when it met stiff public opposition.
He then proposed tripling the 50-cent garbage sticker fee -- with a 3 percent annual increase -- and charging private haulers a 5 percent annual franchise fee, moves he said would have made the city's program self-sufficient. That plan also gained no traction with aldermen.
Aldermen agreed to the hybrid garbage collection system involving the city, private haulers and automated trucks and totes in February.
Financial projections provided by the city at that time showed the city will need to come up with $856,690 from its general fund to subsidize garbage and recycling in the current fiscal year. The city budgeted about $951,000 for the fiscal year that ended April 30.
The administration said the city's cost would rise if fewer than 1,500 households signed up for the tote system.
The new garbage system is not expected to start until at least January, allowing time for the automated trucks to be bought and delivered.
Hackemack said some news releases sent by the city erroneously indicated that residents would lease the totes from the city.
"It's on a purchase basis," she said.
Hackemack said the Garbage and Recycling Committee will review options on how to proceed with the program later this month. The committee could opt for automated trucks that can dump totes using a robotic arm, or models that have a cart tipper where a worker would roll the tote to the truck to be emptied.
"The committee was waiting until after we got the numbers in to see where it ended up at," Hackemack said.
Some members of the committee and city officials have visited communities that have different kinds of the automated trucks. The city has requested proposals for trucks, and they are due by June 26. A request for proposals for totes has not yet been sought.