By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin residents will vote on whether to increase their trash bills by $3.03 a month to pay for curbside recycling.
The Joplin City Council agreed Monday night to hold a special election Aug. 6 on the question.
The discussion came after the council was briefed by Assistant City Manager Sam Anselm on the options for the program. He said a survey was taken by the Young Professionals Network of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce at the request of the council to get an idea of the views of Joplin residents on recycling and its cost.
A member of the YPN, Katrina Richards, told the council that 779 residents answered the survey, which was placed on a website and taken at locations including the Joplin Public Library, the Senior Center and Northpark Mall.
Richards said 81 percent indicated they would likely use curbside recycling if it were available.
Survey participants were asked how much they would be willing to pay for the curbside service. Of the 774 who responded to the question, 326 said they would pay $1 to $3 a month; 281 said they would be willing to spend $3 to $6; and 167 said they were not willing to pay anything.
“We were actually surprised at how willing people were to pay,” Richards said.
Under the offer by the city’s current residential hauler, weekly pickup would cost $5.45 a month on top of the existing trash bill of $11.91, which includes administrative fees. Pickup of recycling items every other week is proposed at $3.03 a month. The company also proposed every-other-week pickup of recycling items for $1.75 more, but with trash pickup limited to the contents of one cart with no removal for yard waste.
City Manager Mark Rohr said the proposals include removal of certain plastics to go to a local manufacturer for recycling into use for storm shelters that could be made available to residents at a cost based on income. He recommended that the council put the question of whether to implement curbside recycling on the ballot.
“Everybody’s in favor of recycling, but when you start making an economic decision, that’s when the vote counts,” said Councilman Bill Scearce. “I think this council, or at least I personally feel like the voters of this city should make the decision.”
Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean asked if new bids would have to be taken for trash and recycling service if there is to be a change in service. Rohr said the city attorney advised that the city could revise the current contract without taking new bids.
The council’s discussion led to the elimination of the $5.45 proposal because of the cost, and the $1.75 proposal because it limited trash pickup.
Councilman Michael Seibert asked the council to adopt the $3.03 option by ordinance instead of paying for a special election. “With a 78 percent approval rate (on the survey) and a $3 cost, I think we ought to consider it,” he said. It could take up to 10 months to get the program rolling by waiting on an election. A special election will cost the city an estimated $24,000 to $26,000.
Seibert was the lone supporter of adopting the change without submitting the question to voters.
The council voted 7-1 to place the proposal on the ballot. One council member, Jack Golden, was absent.
JOPLIN’S MONTHLY TRASH BILLS would go from $11.91 to $14.94 if voters approve the curbside recycling question. It could take four or five months after the election to get the trucks and equipment in place to offer the service, according to Republic Services, which has the contract for providing trash service in Joplin.