I was invited by City Manager, Dave Kiff, to participate in an informal meeting with about eight citizens, joined by Councilmember Michael Henn and Mark Harmon (general services director). The topic: the possibility of outsourcing the city’s residential trash pick-up.
The purpose of the meeting was to get input from citizens regarding our current trash service, inform us about why the city is considering a change, and gather input from us on what services we currently like in our system now.
The one thing about trash pickup is that it is like death and taxes; it affects every citizen in the city. People will be weighing in on this from every part of the city and it potentially has major changes for all of us in the way we sort, don’t sort, throw, separate, or not– everything that comes into our houses and also that stuff that has been lingering too long in the garage, yard and house.
My neighbor Mark and I love trash day because both of us like to keep our homes, garages and courtyard clean and neat. We love getting rid of things we do not need and are impressed with the way that our city takes everything that we and our neighbors set outside on our designated day. However, times are changing, and we all need to reevaluate what we dispose of and how.
The city provided a brief overview of the factors that are prompting this study of how to improve trash services, increase cost savings and meet state guidelines for trash disposal. The major factors pushing this discussion are the age of the trucks currently used for collection and upcoming retirements of our refuse collectors, and the method of collection, which still involves much labor on the part of the collectors, and costs of continuing to implement the system in place.
The citizens participating (including me) like the system we have in place now. The trash does not have to be sorted, we can use any can or bag we like, and our people pick up nearly everything we citizens put out on the curb.
We have had the privilege of a system that caters to the client and even comes back if you miss it in extreme circumstances. We are spoiled and do not want change, but it is inevitable and change is coming, at least in some manner, to our current system.
Most of you have seen citizens put out things that should not be the responsibility of our city, as well as those who do nothing to sort or clean any part of their trash thus attracting critters of all sorts to not only their house but yours next door.
Prior to being invited to this meeting, I had been asking people how they feel about changing the current system. Person after person likes what we have been doing. Of course we do, it is easy and efficient for us. But we all know that we have to find ways to decrease the amount of stuff in landfills, recycle more and be better stewards of our environment. That will take time, effort, planning, and a huge amount of cooperation on everyone’s part.
Here are some of the questions that the city is raising in their study of how best to deliver trash services to us.
Will outsourcing our trash be more cost effective and could it provide a similar satisfaction level on the part of us citizens? Should we invest money in replacing our trucks with new ones, which can provide automated service with a lift and ask each household to use the same size and type trash receptacle? How much stuff will the city require the citizens to sort prior to your stated collection day, and is there a contracted service out there that can be structured to fit the needs and expectations of the citizens of Newport Beach for six million dollars or less? Or can we improve the current system and keep it under the direct supervision of the city?
Here’s your opportunity to offer input and let the city know what matters to you regarding current service, and what you would like to see maintained, as the city studies this important issue.
As you think about this, please consider that it is not an option to do nothing. We have an aging fleet of trucks that need to be replaced at higher costs, we have retirements on the horizon, so it is time to rethink personnel expenses. We also have state mandates for reducing the amount of stuff we haul to dumps and how it is received.
My greatest concern is weighing cost savings versus service. Some things are just worth paying more for and I am willing to give up some things for a service that is similar to what we have while complying with state laws. Cheaper is not always better, nor the best option.
Let your city leaders know what level of service matters to you, and be willing to look at all the options as the city goes through the discovery process of this important service. It was clear after watching the study session this Tuesday that many citizens have concerns about sorting trash, space for extra containers to be kept if we start to separate trash, and extra trash that may be left around the city if people do not recycle properly.
On the other side are those who want us to recycle more at the doorstep and help our children understand that recycling is important to our planet.
Let the discussion begin.
That is My Take