Waste official seeks fewer trash pickups

After 10 years of city-managed, twice-weekly garbage service, it's time to streamline solid waste collection and encourage households to recycle more, according to Augusta Solid Waste Director Mark Johnson.

"We have done the heavy lifting," Johnson said of Augusta's shift to a generous, semiweekly trash pickup in 2000. "How many tires does a house get rid of in a week? We take two."

In addition to two tires, the city will collect up to 190 gallons of trash, 250 cubic feet of yard waste, a kitchen appliance or sofa and a container of recyclable materials from every household each week.

"In many cases our service levels exceed the demand of most of our customers," he told Augusta commissioners in a Monday committee meeting.

Johnson recommended that when the city renegotiates its solid waste contract with haulers this year, it revert to once-weekly trash pickup, reduce the amount of yard waste a household may leave on the sidewalk and move bulk waste pickup to a call-in service.

Johnson proposed that each household be provided a single, 35-gallon container, the size of a metal trash can, to be emptied once a week.

For a premium, households may obtain a 95-gallon bin, the size that most roll to the curb twice-weekly now.

Augusta's engineering committee did not discuss how much, if any, the cost to consumers might change if the proposal were adopted but accepted it as information.

Commissioner Corey Johnson, chairman of the committee, said he thought the commission could lower rates for households that opt for basic service under the new plan.

"If you don't need it, you don't pay for it," he said.

Right now, residents who live inside the pre-consolidation city limits pay a mill in property taxes, plus a $101.50 fee annually for pickup. Outside the old city limits residents pay $296.50 a year.

Other business

An ordinance changing the meeting times for the Augusta Commission, commission committees and commission closed-door legal meetings goes before the board next week, although the commission could reject parts or all of the plan.

The ordinance, drafted by Interim General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie, moves semimonthly commission meetings from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., still on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

It also changes committee meetings, which typically start at 12:30 p.m. on the second and last Mondays of the month, to 5 p.m., and schedules legal meetings at 3 p.m. Mondays, before the committee meetings.