Neighborhood green waste collection sites to be replaced

While green waste collection sites could be discontinued, Laramie residents could soon be able to opt for a curbside service to pick up their yard waste.

During a Laramie City Council regular meeting Tuesday, McBride’s Yard Waste co-owners Gene Russel and Jonathan McBride presented the council with a contract for a private green waste collection service that could reduce some of the city composting program’s $160,000-a-year deficit.

The public-private partnership is one of six options city staff provided the council during a work session in April and again June 12.

“Neighborhood collection sites are a component of the composting program,” Laramie Public Works Director Earl Smith said. “They were never meant to be a long-term feature for the community.”

Although the current green waste collection sites only account for 15 percent of the green waste collected for the compost program, Smith said the council identified a desire to continue community collection in some fashion as long as the program could be voluntary.

Smith said when the city put out a request for qualifications, McBride’s Yard Waste was the only company to satisfactorily complete the request.

However, the council expressed some concerns with the contract.

“I know one concern is the subsidy,” Russel said. “It helps reduce the cost and allows us to be very competitive. We gave city staff multiple options and came to the number that best worked for everyone.”

The contract is for 10 years, but the subsidy would discontinue after six years. Starting this year, the city would pay McBride’s Yard Waste $42,000 a year for four years and $21,000 for the following two years as well as allow the company to collect service fees from customers.

McBride’s Yard Waste service fee is slated to be $69 a year, Russel said. The contract also allows the company to adjust the fees up to 4 percent a year to account for inflation.

“We feel we will hit market saturation in about 4-5 years, which is why we would discontinue the subsidy at that time.” Russel said. “In no circumstance would we come back and ask for a subsidy extension.”

The company predicts about 1,000 customers could sign up in the first year and cap around 4,500 customers in about five years.

“Our intent since we’re beginning at the last three months of summer is to provide the service for free,” Russel said. “That allows the customer to gauge the value of the service.”

Smith said residents would continue to have access to free green waste drop off at the landfill if the contract was approved.

During the public comment section of the meeting, several residents came forward to express support for changes in the current program.

“I’m very pleased to hear a solution is being considered about this,” Anthony Allen said. “I live across from the LaPrele (Park) dump site. There’s a big beautiful sign that talks about what you can and can’t leave, but that’s not followed very often.”

Barb Deshler said her daughter lives in Portland, Oregon, where a similar system is in place.

“I do some yard work when I’m out there,” Deshler said. “I’m also so surprised how convenient wheeling around a little bin as I go is.”

Ginnie Madsen said the program would save people without trucks a trip to the landfill.

“I think $69 is well within what I would be willing to pay,” Madsen said.

However, not everyone who spoke was in favor of the council’s direction.

Robert and Leslie Waggener spoke to the council together about volunteering their time to get the composting initiative started in 2004. Robert Waggener said a meeting discussing the future of Laramie’s composting program in 2009 was attended by public officials from around the state as well as business owners, local government and private citizens.

“I ask the city representatives if the city would take the lead on putting together future collaborative meetings,” he said. “As far as we know, no efforts were made to continue these meetings.”

The inaction on the part of City Council diminished their standing in his eyes, he said.

“We’re now beginning to understand why other caring members of the community are starting to feel like they aren’t heard,” Robert Waggener said.

His wife followed his passionate rebuke of the council’s approach to the compost program with a calm summation of his points.

“Had the city council formed partnerships with residents instead of organizations, had the city stood behind their enforcement, had the city continued the collaborative meetings … we don’t feel like we would be here tonight,” Leslie Waggener said.

Although some councilors said they arrived with preconceived notions of voting against the contract, councilors Vicki Henry and Klaus Hanson said they were swayed by the company’s presentation and public comments.

Slated to begin in August, the council approved the contract 7-2 with Mayor Andi Summerville and Councilor Pat Gabriel voting against.

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