Change in Portage's garbage collection could come as early as September

2012-05-27T21:15:00Z 2012-05-28T20:11:21Z Change in Portage's garbage collection could come as early as SeptemberBy Joyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | If things go well, the switch to an automated trash and recycling system could come as early as September.

The city's Board of Works last week approved advertising for proposal requests from companies for the disposal and partial collection of solid waste. The proposals are due back to the city June 13.

Mayor James Snyder recently said he expects a contract will be awarded soon after the deadline, and the winning bidder will have 90 days to provide totes for trash and recycling.

He expects the move to save the city between $750,000 and $1 million the first full year it is instituted. The savings would come in reduced landfill costs and fewer workman's compensation claims by sanitation employees.

The proposals ask the disposal company provide the 96-gallon trash and recycling containers in exchange for keeping the city's recycling materials.

Currently, residents recycle only 4 percent of their trash. Officials hope to boost that to 40 percent. Once the contract is awarded, Snyder said, the city will begin an extensive educational campaign with residents, going door to door and sending information through the schools to inform residents about the new system.

The proposal request also requires the winning contractor to pick up trash in mobile home parks in the city and asks 65-gallon containers be provided for mobile home residents.

Trash pickup at mobile home parks has become a problem.

City Councilman Matt Scheuer has proposed an ordinance change that would stop trash pickup by the city in the parks. He said he believes it would save money and align city policy with practices in other privately owned developments. Scheuer said the city does not pick up trash at apartment complexes, and the same policy should be in place for mobile home parks.

Snyder disagreed and said he believes the city would lose $120,000 in revenue for the rest of this year if the ordinance amendment is approved.

"We can't afford to lose that revenue," Snyder said. "I may agree with the premise of it, but we have to look at the numbers. We have to be vigilant and make sure they (mobile home park residents) receive the same level of service."

The council tabled the proposed ordinance change during its May meeting but is expected to deal with it when members meet June 5.

The city is receiving two trucks the city of Valparaiso is retiring. Snyder said it will cost $40,000 to retrofit Portage's trucks and those funds already have been set aside in the cumulative capital development fund.

Leaf, branch and yard waste pickup will remain the same, Snyder said. Residents also will have a once-a-month pickup for bulk items. Snyder said officials still are working out what to do about pickup for grass clippings.

The change in the trash and recycling system, he said, will not affect residential garbage or recycling fees and it will not involve layoffs of sanitation department workers.

While the new system will allow the city to downsize its trash and recycling crews, Snyder said, those workers will be given other tasks within the department.

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