Trash Policy Explained By Mayor – Again

After listening Tuesday night at the Common Council meeting to more residents’ grievances about the two-month-old curbside trash pick-up system, Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer and Public Works Superintendent Jeff Beeler explained it again.
“Seventy percent of communities charge user fees in Indiana for curbside pickup and waste, which average about $14 a month, which would be approximately $168 a year. Warsaw does not charge a fee,” Thallemer said. “The automated system with curbside pickup has allowed the city to reduce trash expenses by over $200,000 a year and avoid charging a fee.”
City officials have heard complaints about the new trash removal policy since it was established earlier this year. Among the concerns are that trash containers need to be put out by the curb and that trash pickup is no longer available in alleys.
While some residents have suggested the city “leave things the way they are” and charge a fee, Thallemer said that “makes no fiscal sense whatsoever. None.”
Municipalities across the nation have to improve efficiencies and reduce expenses to meet decreasing revenues, he said. “These are proven programs to do just that. There is no difference in our community with what is happening everywhere,” he said.
Communities with curbside pickup include Plymouth, with a 96-gallon limit and charge residents a fee; Columbia City, Nappanee, Winona Lake. “This isn’t something we dreamt up and decided to do just to make people mad. Of course it’s not. This is to try and help with the decreased revenues we have to help curb our expenses,” he said.
The city is doing everything it can to avoid a monthly user fee, Thallemer continued.
“Not enough space in a 96-gallon can for one household is ludicrous if they take advantage of easy, free, curbside recycling,” he said. “It’s easy, free and saves the city by reducing the waste stream into the landfill. Many communities limit garbage pickup by charging fees by the bag to encourage recycling. Warsaw does not force recycling, limit trash volume or charge a fee. We’re simply now asking for cooperation to reduce the waste stream by taking advantage of no-fee municipal recycling.”
Thallemer said Warsaw’s program was modeled after best practices in other communities. It’s been studied and vetted by the council, Citizens Curbside Waste Committee and staff for over two years.
The program was implemented on May 9, and the city expected a three- to fourth-month adjustment period. Landlords were given a six-month grace period. Thallemer said the city will continue to work every day to help residents adjust to and improve the program. Residents are asked to bring their cans in, per the ordinance, within 24 hours.
He said the city feels good about the improvements and has noticed a drastic reduction in calls to the street department over the last few weeks.
“We know we have several months to improve service, and we may have to change some routes, and to that end, we have anticipated that and will do that if we need to,” he said. “This program is working and will save our taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
In his slide show presentation, Beeler said, “I’d like to answer why are we doing, what are we doing, the way we are doing it.”
For residents, he said it’s an easy and convenient method to dispose of trash. The wheeled containers are easier, more maneuverable and safer for residents because there is no carrying, dragging or lifting of heavy cans.
The capacity of most cans provided is equal to three or four regular cans. Containers keep rodents and pets out of the trash, given the tight lids, and help eliminate overservice as carts have a finite capacity as compared to an unlimited number of cans. By overservice, Beeler said his department has photos of where people outside the corporate limits of the city bring their trash in to family members “to use us for their free service. This is a way we can control that.” Already in the past six weeks, he said, his department has seen the amount of trash go down by tons.
The containers are provided and maintained by the city, creating healthier, cleaner neighborhoods with no litter on the streets after pickup, he said, though nothing is perfect.
The new curbside system improves collection efficiency and reduces costs, employee injury, turnover rate, rodent problems and increases productivity, he continued. It also helps with the $2.1 million needed to maintain the 21 miles of paved alleyways, which receive no funding from the state.
Going through the concerns that needed to be clarified, Beeler said that if there is a second person on the new one-arm truck, it’s because of cross-training of employees. There is no fee for garbage pickup, and there is no fee in the sewage rate for trash. The city provides 64- and 96-gallon carts, and recycling is only available in 96-galloon carts. If a cart is damaged or stolen, the city will maintain and replace them if necessary because they are owned by the city.
If anyone has an issue, Beeler said they can call the Public Works Department and talk to any staff member, not just him, at 574-372-9561. If anyone wants a Borden recycling cart, they also can call the Public Works Department, which will make a request to Borden for a recycling cart.
If, after a person takes advantage of the recycling program, they still need a second 96-gallon trash cart, Beeler said they will be provided one. Recycling is not mandatory but encouraged and done on a bi-weekly basis.
On a final note, Beeler said they’ve heard a lot that the trash carts make the city look ugly. He then showed photos of trash under the old system, with trash piled high in the alleys and streetside and not in any containers or many containers and overflowing. It wasn’t trash that was accumulated over time, but every week it was a similar disaster.
Residents who spoke at the meeting about problems with the trash system included Steve Coy, 307 N. Columbia St.; Tony Braber, 536 E. Center St.; Alisha Rhodes and Vernon Bruce, 1008 Sheridan St.; and landlord Chad Zartman.
Zartman provided the city council with a petition signed by residents at 59 homes, and he said 170 signed it online. The petition indicates the people want the trash carts moved back into the alleyways from the curbside.