PHOTO by D’ARCY NORMAN
by BRAD ROLLINS
Whether you think the trash can is half full or half empty, depends on how you look at it. And that’s saying nothing about the recycling bin.
City council members last night took a third and final vote on a five-year contract extension with Texas Disposal Systems for providing curbside trash pickup for single-family residences and duplexes. Commercial customers, including larger apartment complexes, are not included in the agreement.
The good news: When the contract takes effect July 1, customers will pay $13.98 a month for trash pickup as part of their city utility bill, 23 cents less than the current $14.21 rate. The bad news: Service is being reduced from twice- to once-a-week, a frequency that city and Texas Disposal Systems officials say is the standard for virtually every surrounding city.
“Some of the public feedback I’ve been getting is that residents are getting 50 percent less service but rates are not dropping comparitively. But really the comparison we need to have in mind when we talk about the issue is how much twice a week service would cost under the new contract and the percentage differences between that and once a week service,” Mayor Susan Narvaiz said.
Maintaining twice a week service would have cost $20.58 a month, or 40 percent more than the current rate, Public Works department director Richard Mendoza said. In a process that started nearly a year ago, council members decided to reduce service to offset the increased costs of fuel and replacing customers’ 55-gallon carts. In addition, another truck and route would have to be added to the city to keep up with population increases, company officials said.
Because it is an extension of a 2003 contract to handle all residential trash pickup and disposal, the agreement did not have to be put out for bids from TDS’ competitors. And throughout the process some council members questioned whether the city was getting a fair shake, although council member seemed to be wholly pleased with the quality of TDS’ service.
Council member Daniel Guerrero, in particular, pushed to provide customers an additional cart at no charge to compensate for the dropped pickup day. In the final agreement, customers can purchase an additional cart for $5 a month but officials said the trucks will continue to pick up all the bagged garbage left curbside on pickup day, whether it is in a TDS cart or not.
Council members also approved a last-minute amendment that allows single-stream recycling service to be negotiated and added later. Council members John Thomaides and Chris Jones met with TDS representatives to discuss the possibility of expanding recycling services to include a number of plastics, papers and glass not currently accepted.
RELATED IN THE MERCURY
» Garbage in, garbage out 01/01/08