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City of Janesville preparing for trash pickup change

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
March 15, 2012
— Janesville will automate its garbage pickup in October, and staff has been working for months to gear up for the change.

Automation will reduce workman's compensation costs and increase efficiency, said John Whitcomb, city operations director.


Residents will be issued wheeled carts that new garbage trucks will lift with robotic arms.


The council already has voted to spend up to $3.15 million for new trucks.


On Monday, council members heard a presentation on policies to regulate the new carts. A committee of staff and residents formulated the suggested policies.


Below are answers to likely questions about the new service.


Q: When will automation begin?
A: In October, but staff have not decided whether automation will be done in phases or citywide simultaneously.
Q: How many carts will I receive?
A: Each dwelling will receive two carts, one for trash and one for recyclables. Owners of multi-unit buildings can coordinate the delivery of fewer than two carts per unit if desired.

Recyclables will no longer be segregated by type, and residents can put all recyclables into the same recyclables container. Most communities that switch to single-stream collection see an increase of 20 to 25 percent in recycling.


All waste must be placed in the carts with the lids closed.


Q: How many carts will the city buy, and how much will it cost?
A: About 48,000 carts will be purchased at a cost of about $2.5 million.
Q: Who will pay for the carts?
A: Residents will pay through garbage fees. The $10 quarterly fee will likely increase in 2013.
Q: Who will actually own the carts?
A: The city. The carts must remain at the properties where they are assigned. Carts cost about $50 each, but that is an estimate because the city has yet to choose a vendor.
Q: How big are the new carts?
A: Residents can choose between 95-gallon or 65-gallon carts. This spring—probably in May—the city will mail notices to residents and ask them to choose sizes.

Residents who do not choose the smaller size will automatically be issued the larger size. The city encourages residents to choose the larger size, especially for recyclables. Other communities report it is harder for workers to empty the smaller containers because residents tend to jam waste in tightly.


On Monday, several council members suggested the city make only the larger carts available, but the majority agreed that the smaller size should be an option.


Q: What if I want to change sizes?
A: You will use your carts for one month, after which you would have a four-week period to exchange them free of charge. After that, you likely would be charged a fee.
Q: Can I choose a color for my cart?
A: All carts are the same color but have different-colored lids to distinguish trash from recyclables.
Q: What if my cart is damaged?
A: Carts come with a 10-year warranty. The carts should last 15 years or more.
Q: What if I am handicapped? How do I wheel the carts to the curb?
A: If you have a documented disability, you can receive alternative services, just as you can under the existing system.
Q: How will the city keep track of the carts?
A: Each cart will have a serial number and electronic ID tag linked to the address receiving the cart. That will help the city make warranty claims. The city also is considering installing sensors on collection vehicles to read cart ID tags. The collected information could be used to calculate recycling participation rates and to find carts moved from assigned addresses.
Q: What if I want to change cart sizes after the grace period, or what if my cart is stolen?
A: You would be charged a $15 service fee to exchange carts. You could avoid the $15 charge by dropping off or picking up carts at the City Services Center.

Staff initially suggested a $15 fee also be charged if your cart is stolen and you file a police report, but the city council said the charge should be dropped. It is not your fault if your cart is stolen, members said.


Q: What if I build a house after the carts are distributed?
A: You will be charged a prorated cost for the carts, plus a $15 service fee. Residents will likely pay for their carts in their garbage fees over a 15-year period.
Q: Would I ever be charged for the entire cost of a cart?
A: Yes, you would be charged the full amount if you do not fill out a theft report at the police department. You also must pay the full cost of replacement if your cart is wrecked after the warranty expires and city workers were not responsible. The automated arm sometimes can't lift carts that are cracked or damaged. Whitcomb acknowledged the inequity of a cart failing after the 10-year warranty but before the city buys the next round of carts.
Q: What if I want a third cart?
A: You must first fill your 95-gallon cart. You can buy additional carts that would remain your property. The cost of any post-warranty work on the carts you purchase would be charged to you plus service fees.

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