City says transition to new waste hauler going smoothly, so far

BURTON — Someone said change is never easy, but with the city’s transition to a new garbage removal company after more than 30 years things are so far off to a good start.

Last week, city residents may have noticed the green and white Emterra Environmental garbage trucks in their neighborhoods instead of the familiar Waste Management trucks that have picked up garbage here for several decades.

The change is the result of the city accepting the low bid from Emterra last month for a five-year contract for garbage removal. Emterra is providing non-carted service starting out at $12.92 per month, per household. The rate increases to $13.17 the second year, $13.44 the third. $13.84 the fourth and $14.26 the fifth for a total monthly increase of $1.34 over five years.

While officials said there have been few complaints, so far, one issue has developed which was discussed at the July 6 City Council meeting.

Councilman Vaughn Smith said he was under the impression Emterra was providing new recycling bins for the residents free of charge, but when he went to city hall on behalf of a constituent who could not go herself, Smith said he was charged $7 for a new bin.

Smith said Dan Garman, spokesman for Emterra, told him during a conversation the recycle bins were free. But when he went to pick up a bin, city hall was going to charge him $7. He said he was told the $7 charge has existed at the city since former Mayor Charles Smiley was in office.

City Chief of Staff Richard Hayman gave the resident her bin for free, but Smith said he thinks the city should address the recycling bin charge.

Smith said the Emterra contract says there’s no charge for recycling bins, and there’s 3,500- 4,000 bins available over the five years of the contract, but there are about 11,000 homes in the city.

“Do the math. We don’t have enough for every resident,” said Smith. “I guess I look to council… do we want to have this standard $7 charge? Or maybe just for a second (bin), or if they bring in a broken one?”

He also questioned where the $7 goes.

Charles Abbey, Department of Public Works Director, said the money goes into either the waste disposal fund or the city’s general fund.

Abbey said the fee wasn’t about making money on recycling bins, it was more about city hall staff spending its time handing out bins.

“They shouldn’t be giving them out, but residents demand it,” he said. “They come here, not to the carrier. We’d like to be out of the recycling business, not be giving bins out.”

He said the charge helps cut back on the portions of the community where tenants are like a revolving door and when people move out, they don’t always leave behind their recycling bins. Abbey said people were also coming to city hall and getting multiple bins.

“Now, who’s going to monitor that? It sounds easy to say they ought to all get a new one. That’s fine. I’m not advocating for the carrier; I’m advocating that we want to be out of that business. But I’ll let you know now the residents don’t want you to be out of that business, because when (their bin) breaks they do come in and get them on a regular basis.”

Abbey suggested the creation of a master list of residents who have come in to get recycling bins but added he didn’t know who would keep track of such a list.

Smith said he thinks the city needs to re-examine the policy of charging for bins and to decide how new bins will be distributed.

“Should they only be free to someone new moving in? If it’s a broken bin we should replace it?” said Smith. “The customers already paid for this, but we don’t want people coming in and grabbing five of them because they’re free.”

Keep it the same, offer residents who are broken get a new one, or make if want second one pays the $7. Not just walk in, $7. Don’t think it came up before because we’ve been with the same company for 30-40 years.

Smith said Councilman Danny Wells, who was unable to participate in the meeting due to technical difficulties with his connection to Webex for remote attendance to the meeting, has talked about each council member keeping 5-6 recycling bins and taking them to residents when they call and ask for one.

Councilwoman Tina Conley said she thinks Emterra should provide a bin at the end of every resident’s driveway. Furthermore, she said she thinks people should only be charged for a second bin and that they should not have to go to city hall to get one – but should instead rely on the carrier to provide delivery of a recycling bin.

“You know, lowest bids aren’t always the best way to go,” said Conley. “There’s always a catch to it. I always believed in that. They shouldn’t be charging people, that’s my opinion.”

Council President Steve Heffner said he thinks Emterra should handle the recycling bins, but also thinks the city should maintain a list of who has requested a replacement or additional bins by computer so they can cut down on people asking for multiple containers.

Smith said Emterra is so far abiding by the contract and he said Garman has asked residents to contact him if they have any questions or concerns. He can be reached at 810-397-0610.

“(Garman) wants it to be a smooth transition,” said Smith. “He’s doing everything he can, let’s use him as a resource.”

City council may take up the issue of the $7 charge at a future meeting.

Mayor Duane Haskins said residents must come to city hall to get a dump permit and cannot obtain them any more electronically.