It’s still two months until trash and recycling changes will take effect in the City of Sedalia, but city staff is hard at work to hopefully make a smooth transition come October.
As usual, citizens have taken to social media to air their grievances regarding the upcoming sanitation service changes as approved by the Sedalia City Council last month after multiple meetings and plenty of discussion — reduce trash pickup to once a week, increase the monthly fee by $2, and implement curbside recycling. Public Works Director Brenda Ardrey spoke with the Democrat on Friday to help answer some of the most common questions.
Ardrey told the Democrat of one other change citizens will soon be notified about — trash pickup will be Tuesday through Friday, eliminating the confusion of Monday holiday pickup. Mondays will be used for the new yard waste on-demand service and continuing pickup on-demand.
As previously reported, the Sanitation Department’s costs are $250,000 more than its revenues, plus there is no equipment replacement fund for the department. The recent changes are designed to help make the department self-sustaining, instead of dipping into the city’s general fund.
“A trash truck costs roughly $195,000 to $200,000. Our existing trucks, because we’re keeping them for 16 years, are costing between $20,000 and $25,00o at trade-in,” Ardrey explained. “$2 sounds like a lot to all of us on a fee increase per month. That’s $24 a year. You multiply that by about 7,100 households in town and what you find out is it will take us 18 months to capture enough in the fleet and vehicle fund to replace a single truck.”
Ardrey said she’s had many citizens point out the department operates a 2015 trash truck and that the department doesn’t need to replace it. Ardrey agrees the 2015 truck is in good condition, but she’s more concerned about replacing a truck that will be 16 years old once enough money is collected 18 months from now.
“Then it’s another 18 months before we can replace another one, which will then be 15 years old and need to be replaced. The industry standard for replacing trash trucks of this type is eight years and we’re running them almost double that,” she continued. “We think we’re reasonable in our approach in replacing them. We’re trying to get that down to around 12 years so we get a better trade-in value and it will make our fund function better. Then we’re trying to eliminate that $250,000 over by going down to once a week.”
She added that not only will creating the replacement fund help the Sanitation Department, it will also have a hopefully positive effect on other Public Works departments, such as streets.
“There’s never been a (sanitation equipment) replacement fund. It’s been coming out of the general fund and that year you just do less streets and less sidewalks. We don’t want to do that. We need to make sanitation pay for itself,” Ardrey said.
Many citizens have asked why the city doesn’t use a private company to take care of trash pickup. City staff looked at that option as well, but found the average company in Missouri charges $15.50 a month for once a week pickup. Staying with the city will cost citizens $13 a month for once a week pickup.
Curbside recycling will begin Oct. 1 and Ardrey addressed citizen questions about the containers that can be used.
“A lot of people already have two trash cans. Put an ‘R’ on one trash can and a ‘T’ on the other if you want to. Put a few feet between them,” she recommended. “They pick up the recycling first, then they come back and pick up the trash on the same day. If we can’t tell it’s recycling or if it’s trash, it’ll simply be picked up as trash so nothing will be left at the curb.”
She did ask that citizens stick with the 35-gallon cans for trash and recycling and for containers to not exceed 70 pounds to help prevent injuries to sanitation workers who are picking up the containers by hand.
At this time, the city is not providing trash or recycling containers, but Ardrey is looking into options, such as the Closed Loop Fund, which provides cities zero-interest loans to purchase containers and trucks.
She added that recyclables should not be put in plastic bags, as workers at the plant will just have to rip the bags open and discard them, and that glass cannot be recycled curbside, only at one of the three drop-off sites — Thompson Hills Shopping Center, the Materials Management Site on state Route U, and at 1002 S. Massachusetts Ave.
The Materials Management Site is open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week, and is only closed on city-recognized holidays. The facility will soon be getting an e-waste container and a paint-filtering machine to help citizens get rid of less common items. These services are expected to be available before the end of the year.
During the first week of the city’s switch to single-stream recycling — placing all recyclable materials in one container, besides glass, rather than separating it — some citizens complained the new drop-off site containers were overflowing. Ardrey said they ordered containers based on the previous volume of material that had been collected, so city staff is unsure if there was a misunderstanding with the sheltered workshop’s figures or if people started bringing more material.
There was also miscommunication with citizens about how much can be put in the containers. At first, citizens were only filling them up to the sliding doors, then calling Public Works complaining about full containers. Ardrey said they can be filled all the way to the top, past the doors.
“We increased the number of single-stream containers and that seems to have relieved most of the problem, but the real solution is to have curbside recycling. We’re excited, we hope everyone will participate in curbside recycling,” Ardrey said. “I know there’s been some discussion and debate on social media about people not wanting to be responsible for sorting their materials. But if they’re truly interested in keeping the cost down, and their fees down, everybody would help reduce the amount of material we send to the landfill.”
In 2015, the city spent $324,092 on landfill charges, plus a $20,000 tonnage fee paid to the state. Ardrey said implementing curbside recycling is a two-pronged solution: reduce the cost for sanitation services and keep useful material out of the landfill.
Over the next few months, citizens can expect to receive more information about trash and recycling changes through the city’s website and social media, public service announcements, and fliers in the monthly water bill.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.