By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Residents of Pittsburg made their feelings known — loudly at times — Tuesday night during a public hearing before the City Commission: Don’t change the way trash service operates, and support local haulers.
The hearing, held during the regular commission meeting, attracted an overflow crowd of more than 100 people, and at times grew heated and emotional. Ultimately, the commission approved a resolution with which most in attendance disagreed.
The resolution begins the steps of forming a task force to explore options when it comes to solid waste disposal by residents within the city limits.
According to City Manager Daron Hall, 30 percent of the city’s residents do not subscribe to a trash service. Hall is in favor of considering making trash service a part of a monthly residential utility bill.
To make such changes, under state law, a municipality’s governing body first must approve a resolution of intent and then engage in a 90-day procedure. But approval of such a resolution does not mean that at the end of those steps any action must be taken by the commission, according to City Attorney Henry Menghini.
Eighteen residents, including three local trash haulers, spoke during the hearing, with several openly critical of Hall. They questioned his list of task force members, which included a dozen local residents but only one local hauler — Merle Lloyd, owner of Lloyd’s Loads. The task force is to be spearheaded by Blake Benson, president of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and Monica Murnan, former director of the Family Resource Center.
Those who spoke voiced support of local haulers and expressed fear that they would go out of business.
In an emotionally charged moment, Kim Carrol, who said her husband is employed by Norris Trash Service, addressed Hall directly: “What are you going to do when my husband is unemployed? Mr. Hall?”
Hall said the intent was not to put anyone out of business, but to consider a list of goals, gather public input and, if deemed appropriate, take action. The list includes ensuring that every residence has trash service; reducing wear and tear on streets caused by multiple haulers operating in the same areas; considering uniform trash carts; establishing a uniform solid waste disposal fee and billing system; and determining whether the city should collect a franchise fee for administering such a system.
Each hauler presented petitions during the hearing that had been signed by several hundred customers who were opposed to any change being made.
Mayor John Ketterman said he would never support a bid approach in which local haulers were put out of business, a position echoed by the commissioners during the hearing. Hall said the intent was merely to open the issue for discussion and ideas, and that the effort would be completely transparent.
“I think it is ridiculous,” said Bob Torbett, a town resident of 40 years. “I think it’s the most ridiculous thing the city of Pittsburg has ever come up with. It’s a loaded task force. Handpicked.”
Ralph McGeorge, who served on the commission for nine years, spoke against any changes being made. He said the issue came up in 1998. He said that while he believes some work is needed to clean up areas of the city, he is against the city managing solid waste disposal.
“We don’t have a trash problem,” he said. “We have a city codes enforcement problem. This issue shouldn’t even be up here. It was shot down before.”
He suggested that the commission ensure haulers are all local by passing a resolution that all haulers must use single-axle trucks, which would eliminate larger, out-of-town haulers.
Jeanne Gaddy, who has used a local trash hauler for 25 years, said the city shouldn’t get involved with choosing trash service for residents.
“What are our options if they don’t show up or we are not happy with their service?” she said. “The city’s got enough to handle. I don’t think they can handle any more. Right now, I can hire who I want and fire who I want.”
Ketterman and Commissioner Rudy Draper voted against passing the resolution, while Commissioners Michael Gray, Marty Beezley and Patrick O’Bryan voted in favor of the resolution.
Addressing those in attendance directly, Beezley said: “If after discussion it’s deemed no change is needed, then that’s what will happen. ... I don’t want you to be fearful. Early on there was a lot of conjecture, social media picked it up, and it took off. Please don’t be worried. We support local business.”
AT THE PUBLIC’S ENCOURAGEMENT, City Manager Daron Hall added the four local haulers to the task force. The first meeting will be Nov. 28 at the Pittsburg Law Enforcement Center. It will be open to the public and televised on city Channel 6.