Friday, December 26, 2014

Council zeroes in on yard waste container system

From page A1 | January 15, 2014 |

The City Council narrowed down a list of options to take the city from leaving piles of yard waste in the streets to placing them in curbside carts Tuesday night.

While not voting to change decades of practice, council members sought doggedly to get firm numbers on cost savings and learn more about Davis Waste Removal’s daily practice of picking up waste from city streets.

Yard waste in the streets presents a few problems for the city: It poses a hazard to cyclists, clogs storm drains and keeps compostable materials in the trash, where they contribute to the city’s tonnage of waste in the landfill.

Plus, there’s peer pressure: Davis is one of three cities left in the state that collects yard waste in piles on the street.

John Berg, a member of the city’s bicycle Advisory Commission, said the threat posed to cyclists is real.

“We’ve heard from a number of people who have been seriously injured by piles at night,” he said. “People say get better bike lights. I have better bike lights and I haven’t seen these piles.”

Mayor Joe Krovoza said he even had crashed into a pile of grass clippings one night.

But the benefits the council sees from having yard waste in containers extends beyond bike safety.

City Councilman Brett Lee pointed out that the city could estimate a cost savings from not having to street sweep as often.

John Geisler, operations manager for Davis Waste Removal, said he couldn’t give firm numbers Tuesday night for city council members — citing too many variables in the collection process — despite nearly being cross-examined by members trying to figure out exactly how much savings one could expect from the five container options presented by city staff.

The options ranged from only containers and no on-call pick ups or seasonal drop-offs to more lenient rules that allow for on-call pick ups and annual drop offs.

In the end, the council asked for more information about hard numbers related to two options that could provide a transitional period from piles to containers. They also wanted the city to analyze the hybrid program in place in Sacramento.

In any case, city staff said, containers couldn’t pop up overnight — it would take nine months for Davis Waste Removal to get all the trucks and equipment they needed to take yard waste away in containers.

Anti-scavenging ordinance

One place where the city council provided no transition was in unanimously passing an ordinance against scavenging recyclables from recycle carts on city streets.

The new rule targets organized scavengers, who pull up on city streets in flatbed trucks and go from cart to cart scavenging for recycling, often going through trash in the process.

Police receive numerous complaints from residents about scavengers going through their trash, and sometime going onto their property to access carts and search garages.

The scavenging hurts Davis Waste Removal ratepayers, because the recycling program is paid for in part by money from the amount of recycling the agency can get to the recycling plant.

City staff said Tuesday many of the scavengers contacted by police also had records as identity thieves.

Following a second reading of the ordinance at a subsequent City Council meeting, it would take effect that the first violation would be an infraction costing $100, $200 for the second violation and $500 for additional violations.

— Reach Dave Ryan 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews



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