Sunday, November 25, 2012

Once-per-week trash option now on public radar

First, for the benefit of those viewers just tuning in, I will summarize this blog's coverage to date of the $30 million League City trash contract that was recently approved by City Council

Following that, I will summarize new developments including the cost increases that are now expected to impact League City's approximately 26,000 households (the election is now over - can you tell??).

You might want to skip these review bullets if you've already read this stuff:
  • On October 28, 2012, I asked the following question: Why do League City residents pay for twice-weekly trash pick-up when our neighboring two million Houstonians only pay for one?
  • On November 4, 2012, I presented my own limited but telling data in which I had measured a mere 56% trash participation rate in my study area's second weekly collection day (i.e., on November 3), but even more strikingly, I presented photos documenting the fact that many of those people who did bother to participate put out almost no trash.  By my own conservative fiscal viewpoint, I asserted that such little bags of almost-nothingness could easily have waited another three days for pickup without any deleterious impacts to public health or quality of life.
  • On November 6, 2012, I described how I'd measured just a 43% recycling participation rate in my study area (also on November 3).  And, of course, Leaguers are using those tiny little recycle bins that hardly hold anything to start with.  I questioned the financial efficiency of this strategy.  Recycling is about conservation and yet it wouldn't surprise me if we were actually expending far more resources in fuel alone than we could ever hope to recoup through such a dismally-ineffective process that couples low participation with inefficient containerization.
  • On November 9, 2012, I wrote an open letter on the contract following my participation in the first public meeting held by City Council.
  • On November 11, 2012, I used general data published by the federal government to conservatively estimate how much League City taxpayers could save by going to a once-per-week collection scheme, concluding that the savings should be at least $4.5 million according to those published figures.
At one point in November 2012, in a discussion thread in a Galveston County Daily News article, I also made the observation that our newly-elected City Council members Bentley, Thiess, and Kinsey (I've used campaign URLs there in case they are still monitoring their own linkbacks) basically have no choice but to examine this trash contract very closely. 

If they don't do this, they're leaving themselves open to a serious spanking down the road, if not sooner.  They have a Tea Party affiliation and were elected on a platform of fiscal conservatism and "no more government as usual".  Geri Bentley specifically made reference to the $200,000 spent to move the Ghirardi Compton oak as an example of questionable government spending.  I ain't no political strategist, but if someone agitates about $200,000 but then declines to parse a contract for which millions of dollars could potentially be saved if only it were managed in a way that flew in the face of "government business as usual", it seriously does not pass the smell test. 

Quoth Galveston County Daily News on November 23, "Councilwoman Heidi Thiess also asked if the city had looked into going to a once a week trash pickup service for residential customers instead of twice a week."

Hallelujah.  Baby steps.   

Of course, Republic Waste's reported reply sounded like pure saber-rattling to me:  "Republic Waste Services representatives said that judging from other city’s (sic) that have gone to once a week, service costs may actually go up for the League City if it were to go to once a week." 

Yes, that's usually the way it happens in the real world - significantly decrease fuel consumption, equipment wear and tear, and labor hours, and program costs usually do go up as a result.  Not.

But I'm digressing as well as rambling. 

Here is the other important point to take away from GCDN's November 23 article:
Here is another very important point that was debated in the first public meeting but which has received scant news coverage to date:
  • Republic Waste refuses to collect recyclables on the same day as trash, as Ameriwaste now does.  Furthermore, they refuse to collect anything whatsoever on weekends.  What this means under this new contract as it now stands is the following: League City in its entirety will be littered with the sight of refuse collection containers three out of every five business days!!  We're collectively going to have containers out there visible to the transiting public three days per week!  In the first public meeting, OKeeffe was horrified by the thought of that, and so am I.  We're trying to attract new business and new consumer spending to League City.  Will projecting a trash-centric OCD vibe help those goals?  Obsessive-compulsive disorder raised to a municipal scale: they can't seem to get their trash collected efficiently, so they have to keep putting their containers back out there most of the time.  Good grief. 
Anyway, we'll see what happens next with it.

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