Friday, January 2, 2009


One thing I heard over and over going door to door is that people are ready for curbside recycling. ECUA is leading the way, which is a bit of a reversal for our city, which prides itself on great services. It is even interesting to hear city residents talk about how excited they are to get curbside recycling next week, only to hear how disappointed they are when they realize they aren't lucky enough to be in the county....

Rest assured, city staff is working on how to make recycling a reality. I contend, however, that we need to consider offering a sanitation franchise to ECUA. As always, there are pros and cons, but I believe the pros outweigh the cons. Of course, the below numbers (like the cost per household) could be changed during negotiations for service, and it is likely that we could get some concessions. Additionally, I do believe my numbers are accurate but will willingly correct them if they aren't. [A disclaimer: My mom, Lois Benson, is on the ECUA board, and we have had extensive discussions of this topic. I am basing my views on the facts as I see them and do not believe I have been unduly influenced.]

First, a comparison of the two plans.
Monthly Residential Charge$22.20$18.00
Monthly Fuel Surcharge$2.85$0.86
Yard WasteUnlimitedFree weekly one pile of cuttings and up to 6 (six) bags
Excess Yard WasteN/A$28-$312, depending on volume
Bulk Waste (sofas, dryers)$15+, depending on timeFree monthly, up to 6' x6'x6'
RecyclingCounty drop-off centersWeekly curbside
General trashTwice weeklyWeekly

As you can see, there are differences in services. As far as I can tell, the current plan the city is working toward is once-a-week trash, once-a-week recycling, similar to the ECUA plan, which would eliminate the difference in the general trash pick up. Other notable differences are the yard waste and bulk waste amounts. While I encourage people to clean up their yards, I imagine that most people, doing routine maintenance on their yards will not exceed the ECUA free yard waste limits. As for bulk waste, I am always bothered by customers being charged for the time it takes a person to do their job, which can lead to unexpected costs. The ECUA bulk waste pick up will cover a sofa, a dryer, or other similar things that customers might want to dispose of. Based on my review of the two offerings, excluding the fact that ECUA is already beginning their curbside program, the city and ECUA customer sanitation services are fairly comparable, with ECUA nudging ahead based on the lower monthly cost.

That said, not all of the city's sanitation services are curbside pick-up. The city also has STEP programs, which are coordinated neighborhood clean-ups, with free bulk waste pick-ups. There is also the debris removal after hurricanes or other weather events. I believe that it is imperative that we continue to maintain high standards for the appearance of our city.

As far as I can deduce from the budget, the STEP programs and other debris removal efforts are lumped in with general yard waste/bulk waste pick up. That item, in the big budget book I have, is about $1.4 million proposed for 2009. That results in approximately $74 per household (19,000 customers) per year. That is about the difference in cost between the city and ECUA monthly charges ($74/year, if you include the fuel charges). Mind you, the $1.4 million includes the free yard waste pick up as well as the bulk waste (for which we charge approximate $200,000 per year).

Now, for recycling. For the city to begin recycling, we need to get cans, which is not a negilible cost. The cans for the pilot program in East Hill were provided by Escambia County, but they are unwilling to provide cans for the whole city. Finding the funds for the cans (approximately $1 million) seems to be the biggest obstacle to beginning a city-wide program.

So, where to go from here? I would like to see the city renew discussions to ECUA. (There was a discussion over the summer, but the council ended it because of concerns over unlimited yard waste pick up and disaster clean up.) Would it be possible for ECUA to offer us the cans in exchange for being the residential sanitation franchise for the city, providing the same service for the same costs as they offer the county residents? Might they be willing, even, to cover the cost of some equivalent of the STEP program as their franchise fee? One would assume that by consolidating this service there would be cost savings--consider how many streets in this community have city as well as ECUA trucks rumbling down them--so perhaps they could pay us some of that difference to cover these programs. Of course, the city will lose some control with consolidation, particularly during disaster clean up. Such concerns could, I believe, be addressed during negotiations. ECUA is an elected board, and they, too, need to ensure that they provide great service to their constituents.

As always, the views I have outlined here are based on the information I currently have. It is possible that missed something, that I might have incomplete or incorrect information. Please let me know if you see any errors. I will try to be as transparent as possible in my reasoning, but by the time an issue comes to a vote, I may be voting based, in part, on new information which I may or may not have posted here.

1 comment:

  1. I believe you are on the right track with this consolidation. Please keep us update.