PITTSBURG, Kan. —
City officials and representatives from each of the area’s dozen or so trash haulers met Wednesday night at Pittsburg Public Library to discuss changing residential trash service.
By Thursday, however, residents and trash haulers were using social media to sound off about their concerns.
In an interview Thursday, City Manager Daron Hall said the purpose of the meeting was to make trash haulers aware that the city’s goal is to fix a problem he believes has gotten out of hand.
“Our goal is simple,” he said. “Right now, there is a city code that says everyone is required to contract for trash services, but our estimates show that 30 percent or more don’t contract for them, so they are dumping illegally, putting appliances in the sewer, etc.”
“I’m not making this up,” he said. “This is a real problem, and when I was hired (last spring), they told me to address it.”
Last year, the city kicked off Operation Clean Sweep, an awareness campaign designed to clean up the town. Chief advocates have been Commissioners Marty Beezley and Patrick O’Bryan, but in a commission meeting this summer they said in some areas of town the campaign hasn’t worked.
Hall said the city of Pittsburg would like to make trash services a part of residential utilities, added to the fees residents pay for sewer and water. To do so, state law mandates a municipality’s governing body first approve a resolution of intent and then engage in a 22-month process.
The resolution of intent most likely will be presented to the commission on Oct. 9.
“It’s pretty regulated,” Hall said. “The meeting with the trash haulers was for us to just initiate the process. I thought we had a really good meeting. We told them goals, talked about the process, and explained we wanted a task force with good representation from the haulers.”
Hall said public meetings and hearings also would identify how the program would be structured and determine the bid steps. One concept is to divide the city into sections — four, six or eight, for example — and ask haulers to bid on those sections. Each section would have a designated hauler and a designated day for pickup service.
“In this way, we’d get away from having trucks all over town on every day of the week. You might have your trash picked up on a Monday, one of your neighbors is picked up on a Tuesday and another on Wednesday,” he said.
Hall said he had heard there “might be a picket outside City Hall on Friday,” but added, “We’re not wanting to take business away from local haulers. My goal isn’t to put anyone out of business. My goal is to have everyone in this city have trash service. This is the only community I’ve ever heard of that doesn’t have a trash utility.”
But Chris Norris, whose family started Norris Trash Service in 1979, said he believes such a plan would could hurt smaller haulers like his. Norris was at the meeting Wednesday night, and was one of many residents on Thursday who shared their displeasure about the idea in postings on Facebook.
“If they took bids, it would be pretty hard for smaller haulers to compete,” Norris said in an interview Thursday. “And if they go with dividing it into quadrants, and there are eight services in Pittsburg, it sounds like at least four of us would be out of luck.”
Norris, who estimated he had about 1,200 customers, said he was unsure whether that number would change if haulers serviced a particular section of the community, but said their commercial contracts would not change.
Pittsburg resident Suzanne Marshall, who uses Norris Trash Service, said she supports local haulers and is concerned by the prospect of changes being made.
“I do not want my right to hire who I want to pick up my trash to be taken away,” she said. “We need to save our local businesses. Maybe our codes enforcement should do a better job where we aren’t clean enough.”
City officials have said trash accumulating in residential areas and being dumped along roadways is a detriment to attracting new residents and businesses, and takes away from the quality of life.