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City council approves recycling for apartments


Left to right: Jim Powers of Texas Disposal Systems (TDS), San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero, San Marcos City Clerk Jamie Lee Pettijohn, and TDS Director of Sales Rick Fraumann at this week’s San Marcos City Council meeting. Photo by Sean Batura.

News Reporter

Beginning in February, most San Marcos residents will receive recycling services for the first time ever, while most single-family residences will see a reduction in trash collection and recycling fees.

San Marcos city councilmembers voted unanimously to assess mandatory fees of $17.55 and $5.53 on single family and multi-family units, respectively. The $5.53 fee for multi-family units is for recycling services only, as the city will not require apartment owners to use the city’s solid waste service provider.

The city currently assesses an $18.06 fee on single-family residences for standard solid waste and recycling services.

In 2009, the city implemented single-family residential recycling services and mandatory associated fees. In the wake of a multi-family recycling pilot program deemed successful by the city, the council’s action this week will assess mandatory fees and provide recycling services for all multi-family units not newly-annexed. Multi-family dwellings are defined as those in buildings that contain five or more living units.

Texas Disposal Systems (TDS) will collect recyclable materials once per week from all multi-family buildings and apartment complexes. TDS will make bi-weekly recycling collections from single-family residences.

Multi-family customers will not be required to separate recyclable materials by type before collection.

If single family residential solid waste customers want to place extra 30-gallon bags of solid waste on the curb for pickup, they can buy pre-paid tags for $5, or they can put untagged bags on the curb and be assessed an $8 charge. Sabas Avila, the city’s assistant director of public works, said the bags are more expensive because the TDS worker must take more time to pick them up, unlike the carts.

Customers can receive an extra TDS solid waste cart for $5 per month, which is for all cart sizes. TDS will provide 96 gallon carts unless a customer requests 35- or 65-gallon carts.

Under the new contract, TDS will supply 96-gallon recycle carts to multi-family units in amounts sufficient “to service the needs of the residents of the multi-family community.”

Recyclable materials TDS is contractually obligated to collect include metal containers, aluminum cans, ferrous cans, clear glass, colored glass, box board, newsprint/magazines, mail, direct mail advertisements, old corrugated containers, plastic containers number one through seven (no Styrofoam).

“If there is overflow associated with recycling carts, there is no charge for that, and TDS will provide additional carts,” Avila said.

Just before voting on the amended TDS contract, Councilmember Kim Porterfield noted a provision in the contract proposed by city staff that would allow TDS to merely “use its best efforts to have all recyclable materials collected by it processed at a recyclable materials separation/processing site.” Porterfield noted a second provision in the contract that would allow TDS, with the city’s permission, to add or delete recyclable material types “from time to time based upon the commercial markets for the materials.”

After Porterfield expressed her concerns, councilmembers prepared to vote on whether to replace “use its best efforts” with “will” in the first provision. Porterfield persisted in her opposition to the second provision, and Councilmember Chris Jones amended his motion to allow the council to vote on both provisions. Before the vote, TDS Director of Sales Rick Fraumann said his company had wanted the contract worded to insure all materials collected would be recycled.

“From our standpoint, we wanted to say that everything that is advertised as being recyclable by the city will be recycled regardless of market conditions,” Fraumann said.

Councilmembers then unanimously altered the first provision and struck the second.

“TDS proposed that they’re willing to recycle even materials that are not able to be utilized by recycling markets,” Porterfield said. “So, that’s awesome.”

TDS is not required to recycle materials that have been contaminated with solid waste.

Single and multi-family residences newly annexed will have the choice of either immediately switching to TDS for garbage/recycling services, or of continuing with their chosen contractors for up to two years after annexation.

City staff negotiated rate decreases of $0.68 per single-family unit to offset the increase caused by the addition of multi-family recycling and service limits to the TDS contract.

City staff presented councilmembers with a comparison of San Marcos’ solid waste and recycling rates with those of Georgetown, College Station, New Braunfels, Round Rock, San Antonio, Denton, and Austin. According to city officials, San Marcos (at the proposed $17.55 for single family dwellings) had the third-lowest single family rates, ranking behind Georgetown and College Station, the former of which has the cheapest rates at $15.53.

The rates for Austin and Denton were compared to San Marcos based on 95-gallon trash carts. Those two cities, unlike San Marcos, offer lower rates for smaller carts.

The city’s original contract with TDS commenced on July 1, 2008. The new contract will extend from Feb. 1 through Jan. 31, 2016. The contract term may be extended for one additional five-year period.

According to city staff, the funds required to execute the new TDS contract will be $8,305,440. Funds available this fiscal year total $1,470,300, and the remaining funds will be procured in upcoming budget years.

The city budgeted revenues from solid waste/recycling service charges at $1,269,067 for fiscal year (FY) 2009. Expenditures that year were budgeted at $1,263,910 for solid waste hauling and recycling.

The city in FY 2010 budgeted revenues from solid waste/recycling service charges at $1,589,186, and expenditures were budgeted at $1,587,646 for solid waste hauling and recycling.

The city budgeted revenues from solid waste/recycling service charges at $1,589,186 for fiscal year (FY) 2011, and expenditures were budgeted at $1,488,050 for solid waste hauling and recycling.

If the city can no longer afford to pay TDS, the new contract allows the city to terminate the agreement by providing 30 days notice.

Under the amended contract, the city may terminate the contract with a minimum of 30 days notice for any reason deemed by councilmembers to serve the public interest, or for reasons resulting from governmental laws, regulations, or court orders. However, the city cannot terminate the agreement with the intention of awarding the same, or a similar contract, to another provider without breaching the TDS contract.

Before the garbage/recycling services and rates take effect, the council must approve, on second reading, an ordinance that would amend provisions of a solid waste ordinance, regarding the collection and disposal of solid waste and recyclables. Aside from the new requirement of multi-family units to pay recycling fees, one change to the ordinance is a provision prohibiting single-family residential unit owners from using their own solid waste or recycling containers.

Another new provision prohibits single-family residents from placing dead animals greater than 10 pounds in solid waste carts for pickup. The proposed ordinance also provides a new, lengthy definition of “unacceptable waste.”

The person in each dwelling unit to whom the new garbage and recycling charges are assessed will be the person normally billed by the city utility for other services, unless other arrangements are made with the city’s approval.