The town would end curbside pickups of loose leaves and shift to bagged-leaf pickups next fall in a change the public works director has recommended as part of his 2010-11 budget.
But Public Works chief Doug Wright told the Town Board Tuesday he won’t recommend changing the current curbside recycling service next year.
The leaf-pickup change was prompted in part by budget concerns and by the age of the town’s existing leaf vacuum truck, which is in need of repairs and near the end of its life, Mr. Wright told the board.
The proposal comes as planning continues for next year’s budget. Town Manager Leamon Brice has said the town will need to trim expenses to cope with anticipated weak tax and fee revenues and higher expenses in some areas, including the town-owned MI-Connection cable system.
No changes are ahead for the town’s trash pickups. Davidson is in the second year of a 5-year contract with Republic Waste Services. That contract includes no price changes for either trash pickups or yard-waste collections.
Altogether, Mr. Wright is proposing a solid waste services budget for next year of $626,316, or an average of $15.82 per household per month. Sticking with the current leaf pickup system would cost 3.5 percent more, or $16.37.
LEAF PICKUP CHANGES
To continue loose leaf pickups, Mr. Wright said, the town would need a new $125,000 truck. And it would likely need a second truck – and personnel to man it – in six years to accommodate residential growth.
Most Mecklenburg County governments have shifted to bagged-leaf pickups in recent years. Cornelius and Davidson are the only remaining towns that still pickup loose leaves at the curb, Mr. Wright said. Mooresville, just north of Davidson in Iredell County, also offers loose leaf pickups.
By asking residents to bag leaves instead of rake them to the curb, the town could trim more than $50,000 a year from its leaf-collection costs. But Mr. Wright said most of the savings would be in labor – about $46,000 a year. Little money would actually be saved because the town is likely to reassign employees, rather than cut workers in the Public Works department, he said.
The change would bring one advantage: the town’s solid-waste contractor, Republic Waste Services, would pick up leaves weekly. In recent years, the town has had difficulty making regular curbside loose leaf pickups because of weather and equipment breakdowns.
One resident asked whether requiring residents to bag leaves might be a hardship, particularly for the elderly.
Mr. Wright said he had talked to officials in Black Mountain, N.C., which changed to bagged pickups a couple of years ago. There, town officials decided to set aside $2,500 a year to pay for assistance to help residents comply with the new process. He said 46 residents (out of a population of about 8,000) took advantage of the assistance last year. That might be an option here, town officials agreed.
The new leaf pickup procedure would require residents to buy their own bags, and Mr. Wright’s presentation assumed most would use plastic. Town Board members Margo Williams and Connie Wessner both questioned whether plastic bags were in keeping with the town’s desire to be more “green.” Why not use paper? they asked.
Paper bags would cost residents more, Mr. Wright replied. Later, he told DavidsonNews.net that plastic bags would not be required, and the choice of paper or plastic would be up to residents.
Ms. Wessner said she hopes if the town goes ahead with the change it will develop education programs to help residents learn to compost or mulch leaves on their own properties. She said it’s a long-term goal of the town to encourage more residents to skip pickups altogether.
NO CHANGE IN RECYCLING
Mr. Wright said he has decided not to recommend another change he has been studying: switching to twice monthly recycling pickups with larger containers.
The town currently gives residents 18-gallon plastic recycling bins, which are picked up weekly at the curb. Mr. Wright had studied shifting to bi-weekly pickups with 68-gallon rollout recycling containers. (That would be slightly smaller than the size of the 96-gallon trash containers most residents have.)
Changing the recycling procedure would actually cost the town a bit more – $3.38 per month per household, vs. the current $3 per month per household with the 18-gallon bins.
Arguments in favor of the change included that the bigger carts would be easier to roll to the curb and carts would have lids. But residents also would have to keep track of the new every-other-week schedule.
Given the additional cost and drawbacks of a recycling change, Mr. Wright said, “I don’t see any compelling reason to go that route at this time.