QUINCY -- Big changes are coming for Quincy's garbage, recycling and yard waste programs.
On Jan. 28, the Quincy City Council voted to double the price of garbage stickers to $1.50 starting May 1. Small bags will require one sticker. Large bags will need two stickers.
Red stickers will eventually replace the blue stickers that cost 75 cents each, but residents with blue stickers may continue to use them as long as they add up to the new trash collection fees.
Also on May 1, the city will require garbage containers with a lid to prevent scattered trash when bags rip. Residents will be responsible for buying their own trash containers.
Recycling will change from a free program to a $5 per month fee for those who wish to participate. The fee will be placed on the quarterly utility bills for those who opt in. Also, on May 1, a $4 public safety fee will no longer be collected on utility bills.
Aldermen also are scheduled to vote Monday on offering free curbside collection of yard wastes. Evans Recycling will handle the collections under a five-year contract, which covers the company's operation of the Quincy yard waste site on Radio Road as well.
Members of an ad hoc committee recommended the collections initially be offered free of charge, but said the City Council may want to look at costs and finances in coming years to see if the city should charge a fee.
Why did the Quincy City Council need to make changes in the curbside collection programs and what effects do they expect?
KM: The city currently operates a solid waste program which does not pay for itself. For every dollar we subsidize in the solid waste program, it is a dollar we cannot spend to close the growing pension and infrastructure deficit we have in the city.
The council also passed a one-year public safety fee last year which sunsets May 1. That fee generates $800,000 to our general fund. The cost increases for garbage and recycling are meant to transfer this fee which everyone had to pay, to a user fee system for city services. We estimate the solid waste program will go from a $1.2 million deficit this fiscal year to around $660,000.
With the changes coming, how many people do you feel will recycle?
KM: The city currently has around 9,000 (recycling) customers. Since it is a free program it is difficult to know just how many people utilize it. We've estimated around half of those participants would sign up for the recycling program at $5 a month. This would (reduce) the recycling program deficit by $230,000.
Will the city be breaking even on garbage collection if the current number of folks stay in the program?
KM: The city is currently losing $32,000 on garbage collection, we estimate the program to be profitable with $1.50 stickers. The profit will help cover the deficits in the yard waste and recycling programs.
City officials say they have to increase fees because there's a cost to getting rid of recycling. Why did they not just discontinue recycling pick-up if it's cheaper to put everything in the landfill than to recycle it?
KM: Residents spoke clearly at the forums that they wanted the city of Quincy to continue to operate a recycling program.
Can residents take their recycling somewhere instead of paying for the bins?
KM: As of today, residents can still utilize the Quincy Recycle drop off site. I do want to caution that they are a privately run company and while it is their intent to continue to operate this service to our citizens, we do not have a contract with them to operate a drop-off facility.
With the new ordinance, some people likely will change their habits. Is the city expecting more people to switch to private haulers? Do they think people will pay for the totes? Do they think people will opt in for the recycling bins?
KM: I believe we will see more people utilize our monthly tote program for $12.99 a month. That cost was not increased. The city is currently putting together educational literature to show residents when it makes financial sense to opt into our tote program versus the stickers.
(Q&A will be continued on Tuesday.)