Green Park Board of Aldermen votes to fund free trash pickup for residents

Free service to be retroactive to Feb. 1


After rejecting previous proposals to fund once-a-week residential trash pickup, Green Park aldermen last week approved a resolution to make that service free.

The resolution, introduced by Ward 1 Alderman Bob Reinagel, was approved by a 5-1 vote with board President Fred Baras of Ward 3 opposed. Baras said he voted against the resolution because he is concerned about costs for other future projects in the city.

Reinagel said after the Board of Aldermen’s Feb. 20 meeting that his motion would make once-per-week trash service free for all residents retroactive to Feb. 1.

The city’s three-year contract with waste hauler American Eagle began that day.

While aldermen have agreed to use city funds to pay for once-per-week trash pickup, it is unclear when some residents who already have paid for that service will be reimbursed.

Under the approved resolution, residents now will receive two free trash services from the city — once-per-week pickup and recycling. The city previously had decided to pay for residents’ recycling, and Reinagel said that measure dropped residents’ once-per-week trash pickup fee from $14 per month to $10 per month. But with last week’s resolution, that $10 monthly charge is now free. Any trash service other than once-per-week pickup and recycling will be paid by residents. This includes a $2 monthly charge for twice-per-week pickup and a $9 monthly fee for yard-waste pickup.

Both recycling and once-per-week trash pickup were negotiated with American Eagle to be collected on Mondays. Those who wish to participate in the free single-stream recycling service will be given up to two containers free of charge. Containers for either trash or recycling must not exceed 50 pounds. Recyclable items include, but are not limited to, aluminum, milk and juice cartons, steel and tin cans, glass bottles and jars, plastics and various paper products.

Residents who wish to pay an additional $2 per month for twice-a-week pickup will have their trash collected on Mondays and Thursdays. Yard-waste service, which is offered to residents for $9 per month, will be picked up on Wednesdays. That service is available on a month-to-month basis and has a 10-item limit with no one item weighing more than 50 pounds.

In December, aldermen approved a three-year contract with American Eagle that included an option for three more years.

Ward 1 Alderman Judy Betlach was the only alderman opposed to that three-year contract and previously had made unsuccessful motions to have the city pay for residential trash service.

But Reinagel said last week that after more closely studying the issue alongside the city’s budget, he now believes once-per-week trash service and recycling can be paid for by the city.

“The city is paying for trash,” Reinagel said after last week’s meeting. “So every homeowner does not have to pay extra. It’s included in what the city is paying for. So for the homeowner, it’s a free service.

“With the city providing recycling, I strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of it because I think, in fact I know, it’s the right thing to do. We need to take care of our future, and this is one of the ways we can do it.”

With the city’s previous agreement to pay for up to $48,000 annually to provide free recycling to its residents and last week’s resolution to pay for once-per-week trash pickup, the total cost for both services to the city will be more than $165,000 each year. The city currently has 985 residences, and the $10-per-month charge for once-per-week trash pickup would bring the city’s annual cost for that service to $118,200.

During the Board of Aldermen’s Feb. 20 meeting, Reinagel said that perhaps the city does not need its current reserve level of roughly $3 million and that perhaps some of that money can be spent on funding trash service.

“It seems like we’ve got an awful lot of confusion with this trash issue,” Reinagel said. “There’s information coming at everyone from a lot of different sources. And a lot of it is confusing. I’ve been looking at and looking at and looking to Judy and looking at the budget and listening to a lot of other people here talking about what we’ve got going on. And I guess I’d like to make a comment first because I’ve listened to a lot of people make a lot of accusations. And it makes a Dutchhead like me rare up and maybe not go along with some of the things I should go along with. So I’ve tried to put that aside and take a look at the trash. I’ve tried to talk to as many people as I can about this trash and what’s happening with it. This city spent a couple years doing this. I was not involved in it. I’m a brand-new alderman here. But they put together a bid, they got a bid for recycling, they got a bid for trash, they got a good bid. They did it on the strengths of the future, what was happening and on the city of Green Park and what we wanted to do. And I went along with that. I also said let’s take it slow when it came to paying for it. In other words, take it a step at a time. Let’s go to a single trash hauler, let’s see what happens, let’s look at recycling, let’s look at all the issues …

“Then I’m taking a look at this budget and I’ve looked at the budget and looked at the budget. And taking into consideration the things we want to do in the future, we’ve got — as I can see — almost $3 million. It depends on how you read the budget. But let’s say three (million dollars) as a reserve. We need to keep some reserve. Maybe we don’t need to keep three (million dollars). But we’ve got some other projects on the drawing board … At this particular point, and as I say I’ll probably be damned if I do and damned if I don’t, but looking at everything and looking at the budget and looking at a philosophy I’ve held all my life, which is the city is for the people, I think that we should probably try to pay for it.”

Betlach, who previously had made unsuccessful motions to fund residential trash pickup, thanked Reinagel for introducing last week’s motion.

“I applaud the board,” Betlach said. “And it’s a shame that it takes an editorial from the paper to listen to a motion that’s been on this table repeatedly. And I thank you.”

“May I make a comment?” Reinagel responded. “And forgive me because this is not directed at you. But I said I was a hardheaded Dutchman. And if anything, I had to get past that editorial to do this because I had to put myself above that. Because challenges like that sometimes require a … so it didn’t help. Judy, I wanted to make that very clear to you. Very clear. When I took a look at this, I did it in a very, I guess you could say, businesslike manner. First of all, I wanted to do something for the city. I wanted to make sure it would work right. I wanted to look at all angles of it to make it pay. But, if anything, the challenges, the antagonistic challenges like that or the wrong information hurt rather than helped move this process forward.”