HOPF: Questions remain on flat-rate garbage program - Quincy Herald-Whig | Illinois & Missouri News, Sports

HOPF: Questions remain on flat-rate garbage program

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Resident response during sign up for Quincy's new flat-rate garbage service has revealed cracks in the plan to move to a hybrid garbage system.

Only 669 residents signed up for the new program. City projections show 1,500 households are needed to avoid additional general fund dollars being required to support the garbage and recycling program.

Quincy aldermen decided last week to extend the sign-up deadline to June 26 -- the day the city will receive proposals on new garbage trucks.

It's not difficult to see why there is hesitation from residents.

We know the city will make changes to the garbage routes to even them out, based on population in certain areas of the city.

But where will residents in the older areas of the city place the tote -- the alley or the street? For a homeowner with a steep embankment in their front yard, placing a tote on the street would be next to impossible. A homeowner with alley pickup may find it difficult to roll the tote through their backyard with a foot of snow on the ground.

Other residents want to see how the program operates before committing to the $60 initial cost for the 95-gallon tote and $12.99 each month that will be tacked on quarterly water bills. They want to hear from friends, coworkers or neighbors to see how it works.

The city also has to settle on how totes would be replaced if they are stolen or damaged.

Even with the sticker increase from 50 cents to 75 cents for a single bag of garbage that took effect May 1, a flat-rate service would be cost-prohibitive in many households, because they only use one or two stickers each week.

The city also continues to allow private haulers in the city, which thousands of households have opted for. Mayor Kyle Moore told aldermen last week that area private haulers are matching the city's rate for the existing customers who planned to switch back to the city.

The program may continue to be altered as the city moves forward, but buying trucks with robotic arms that pick up totes and dump them while the driver stays in the cab might be cost prohibitive at this point.

The city amended its request for proposals to include non-automated garbage trucks that would have a cart tipper to dump the totes. This could substantially lower the costs of upgrading the fleet. The city could eventually install automated arms on its trucks like in Normal, where existing trucks were retrofitted.

Plenty of items still must be addressed in the new garbage service to ensure that the program would meet the needs of both residents and the city.

-- mhopf@whig.com/221-3391

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