By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin City Council members agreed again Monday night to give residents a vote on whether to implement curbside recycling, but they decided to wait until the regular April election next year to save the cost of a special election.
The council had informally agreed at a special meeting April 8 to put the question to a vote of the people on Aug. 6. It was estimated at that meeting that the cost of a special election would be $24,000 to $26,000, but county clerks told the Globe last week that the cost would run $32,000 to $33,000 in Jasper County, and about $5,500 in Newton County.
The decision came after Councilman Michael Seibert asked the council to forgo an election and institute recycling by ordinance.
Two residents attended the meeting, though, to ask the council to put the matter to a vote because of the increased cost on trash bills, proposed at $3.03 a month.
Resident Paul Weber asked the council to hold the election but to wait until April when the issue could be voted upon with other ballot questions. Even though prices rise, “We retired people don’t get a raise” to meet the higher costs, Weber said.
The council was told April 8 that weekly recycling pickup could be provided by the city’s contract hauler, Republic Services, at $5.45 a month on top of the existing trash bill of $11.91. The cost for biweekly pickup would be $3.03 a month with the existing amount of trash service, or $1.75 with one cart of trash and no yard waste pickup.
Council members had informally agreed upon the $3.03 option because it was less of a raise but with no reduction in trash service.
Members of the Young Professionals Network at the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce made a presentation to the council at the April 8 meeting. They said a survey the group conducted of 779 people showed 81 percent in favor of curbside recycling.
Weber told the council that the city should not rely on a survey that was not sent to all Joplin residents.
Another resident, Linda White, said she could not afford to pay more for recycling. She said she formerly lived in California, where a deposit was paid when products in aluminum cans or plastic bottles were bought and the money was refunded when the containers were turned in for recycling. That made recycling free to those who turned in the recyclable items.
“When you’re on a fixed income, every cent that goes out the door is less to spend on groceries” and on her pet dog, she said. She said she represented the views of five of her neighbors. “It should go to a vote.”
During the council’s discussion, Councilman Morris Glaze asked if the election would be advisory. City Attorney Brian Head said it would be advisory and, as such, not legally binding on the council.
Councilman Bill Scearce asked if a special election would be considerably more costly than the original estimate. Glaze said the council was told that it would cost about $24,000.
“Why are we in such a rush to put it in August and spend $36,000 when we could wait until April?” Scearce said. He said a special election might attract only about 2,000 votes, but the regular April election might generate two to four times the votes, “and we would get a better feel” of the majority view. “I’m in favor of the residents making the decision, and I realize it is advisory.”
Seibert told the council that with the Young Professionals Network survey and the recommendation by the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team for curbside recycling, he believes people support the proposal. “I really feel that, as a council, we could make that decision,” he said. He said Joplin’s tornado recovery is being watched across the country, and adoption of curbside recycling would show that the community is leaning forward.
Seibert asked Jennifer Fagan of Republic Services if the price would still be $3.03 per month if the city waited until April.
“We would have to review it again, and it would have to be approved by corporate,” Fagan said.
Councilman Gary Shaw said he believes curbside recycling would be beneficial, “but I feel it should go to the people.”
Council members Benjamin Rosenberg and Trisha Raney said they agreed with the idea for an April vote. Raney said she initially thought it was the council’s responsibility to adopt the recycling plan, but after hearing Weber and White speak, she supports the election.
THE COUNCIL VOTED 6-3 to reject Councilman Michael Seibert’s motion to adopt curbside recycling without a vote of the people. The council then voted 9-0 to call for an April election on the question.