20190424_new_trashpreviewKS002 (copy)

Margie Walker of Omaha addresses the City Council during a public hearing about city trash collection as city leaders consider a new contract. 

Omaha city leaders face challenging decisions on how to manage trash collection and yard waste composting in the future. They need to make the new contract affordable. But they also need to ensure that residents receive a reasonable level of services that meet their needs.

The situation calls for serious dialogue, flexibility and a willingness among these leaders to work with each other on sensible compromise. Mayor Jean Stothert and members of the City Council are sending the right signals now as they work through this complex issue.

Council members pushed back against Stothert’s initial proposal. Under it, homes would receive two covered, 96-gallon carts: one for trash and yard waste combined, picked up weekly, and the other cart for recycling, picked up every other week. Yard waste would be dumped in a landfill rather than being composted, although homeowners could haul yard waste to a neighborhood cleanup site once each spring and fall.

At the public hearing on the proposed trash contract, a wide range of constituents spoke against the proposal, with support expressed only from the mayor, Public Works officials and companies that would be paid under the new contract.

The city needs to look at options to provide a fuller set of services to Omahans, City Council members said, pointing to strong sentiment expressed to them by their constituents.

Last week, Stothert unveiled a new plan: Residents could put unlimited yard waste at the curb on Saturdays for six weeks each spring and fall. Clippings would be composted. Individual property owners would not pay more for that service. Larger households could request an extra cart for trash and yard waste, after 90 days, at no additional charge to them. The seasonal yard waste changes would mean an estimated $500,000 to $600,000 in additional annual costs to the city.

The trash pickup and composting questions have become some of the most sensitive issues now before city leaders. This means the City Council should be especially thorough as it weighs whether to support the contract the mayor is proposing with FCC Environmental.

Omaha leaders have set a proper tone on this issue. Whether they resolve the matter this week or through further discussion, Stothert and the council need to make sure their decision promotes the public’s trust.

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