Confronting a trashy situation

• Alva City Council hears option for city-operated sanitation service

 

April 19, 2024

Marione Martin

Brittany Eagleston and Kyle Kornele of Waste Connections of Oklahoma present information about their commercial sanitation service.

"I want to be clear. We are hearing information ... but City Council is not going to be making a decision today," said Mayor Kelly Parker when introducing a presentation by Waste Connections of Oklahoma. "I think our sanitation department does a fine job," he added. The city council is working together to make good decisions, said the mayor during Monday's regular meeting. About a dozen citizens attended in addition to city officials.

Brittany Eagleston and Kyle Kornele of Waste Connections of Oklahoma provided proposals for their commercial trash service with seven-year and ten-year options. Eagleston said the higher price for the shorter term was due to covering startup costs.

Residential properties would be provided with two 96-gallon poly-carts for once a week pickup at about the same rates now paid for twice a week service. Additional poly-carts are available for an additional cost.

Commercial rates are higher with service up to three times per week. Commercial dumpsters come in sizes from two yards (like current city dumpsters) up to eight-yard capacity.

Those living outside the city would have the same service if they live within one mile of the city limits. Anyone living further out will have to make individual arrangements.

To accommodate bulky waste, Waste Connections would supply four roll-off containers twice a year at designated locations where people can dispose of large items.

The price quoted will include disposal of the trash since Waste Connections operates the Red Carpet Landfill at Meno where Alva currently hauls waste. The city would be responsible for billing and collection as well as notifying the company of any changes such as residents moving. Cutoff notices would be determined by the city.

Kornele said the company would require residential containers to be placed out front at the curb. There would not be service in alleys. He said he had driven all the sanitation routes in Alva so is familiar with all the locations.

Councilmember Greg Bowman asked about elderly or disabled residents who might have difficulty getting poly-carts to the curb. Eagleston said in those situations, house-side service could be offered as determined by the city.

Councilmember Joe Parsons asked about the difference in pricing for commercial pickup compared to residential. Eagleston replied that businesses are better able to handle the higher costs.

Answering another question, Eagleston said Waste Connections won't be in town just once a week. They can't service everyone in one day. They would be working five days a week, Monday through Friday, with different routes every day. Their only holidays are Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. When those fall on a weekday, service will be pushed forward a day with Saturday added to provide the five days of pickup.

Public Hearing

After councilmember questions were answered, Mayor Parker opened the public hearing for interested citizens to comment and ask questions. He said there was no time limit on remarks, but if someone became repetitive he would ask them to end their comments.

The first to comment was Larry Smith, a 27-year Alva resident. Looking toward the sanitation workers present who were still wearing their fluorescent vests, he said, "They've done an excellent job. They've had some limitations, late hours." These employees should be given some consideration, such as other jobs, he said.

Former sanitation supervisor Kenneth Pharis, now retired, asked, "Were you guys looking into this or did they offer this?" Mayor Parker said a councilmember asked that they consider options. He said this is an exercise in diligence by the city council. "You can't make good decisions without information," he added.

Pharis asked about the pickup of tree limbs and grass. Parker said the city would continue that service. When Pharis asked about providing other work for sanitation employees, Parker said the city has a lot of job openings.

Parsons then explained he went to City Business Manager Stephen Ford after he saw several people posting on Facebook about late hours of sanitation service and workers using pickups when equipment broke down. "I said we've got to find a better way." He said it was "not fair to our guys."

A sanitation employee who lives on Flynn across from the middle school asked about curb service at that location because the curb is often lined with parked cars. Kornele said pick up is safest on the street. Three feet of clearance is needed for the arm to reach out and pick up containers. He said there might be alternatives.

A former sanitation worker spoke about working conditions with equipment breaking down and not enough employees to do the job. He said they have only one CDL driver to make the daily hauls to the landfill at Meno and recommended at least one more CDL licensed driver.

Councilmember Sadie Bier asked if the city could hire more CDL drivers. The high cost of obtaining the license, $5,000 and $7,000 were figures mentioned, means there's a shortage. Ford said the city has one person in training currently.

Alva resident Anita Streich said she didn't find out until that day about the public hearing on the agenda. She asked if a town hall could be scheduled. Parker said that wasn't "off the table."

Sanitation employee Jacoby Merrill said at three and one-half years he's probably the most experienced current worker in the department. "I don't feel like they'd be picking up frequent enough for a lot of stops. There's a lot of places, they have six, seven barrels of trash every day that we pick them up twice a week and even with the poly-carts being bigger than the barrels, I just don't see it being enough," he said.

His wife Montana Merrill asked the size of the trash trucks, citing the narrow streets with cars parked at the curb. Kornele said trucks are the same width as Alva's but they are 10 to 15 feet longer. That led to a question about dead end streets like the five south of Ranger Mart. Kornele said they will just have to back out as they already do in such situations.

Asked what trash they would not pick up, Eagleston said they would reject hazardous waste such as chemicals and batteries, anything that would be a fire hazard.

Marione Martin

"I don't feel like they'd be picking up frequent enough for a lot of stops," said sanitation employee Jacoby Merrill. He said some places have six or seven barrels picked up twice a week.

"What we're doing here today is, we're looking to see, is there a better option." said Parsons. "We have to look at every department and see is there a better option, is there a better way to do things? This is just ... all we're doing is looking at it. To the people who came out and spoke, I really appreciate it. To our trash guys, I know you're sitting over there feeling like you're not appreciated, and I hate that. That bothers me. You play a vital role in our community. I will tell you I really appreciate everything you do. The city of Alva would not run if you guys weren't putting in the long hours and doing the hard work you do."

Mayor Parker said he would echo that. "With any discussion of change, there is uncertainty," he said, adding that no decision would be made during Monday's meeting. He said the topic might be addressed at a future meeting or it may not be brought up again.

A video of the meeting may be viewed at http://www.AlvaReviewCourier.com by clicking on the Videos tab. The meeting lasted about three hours but about one hour was spent in closed executive session.

 

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