Editorial

Changes ahead for Jackson trash disposal

Monday, October 1, 2001

Jackson, Mo., residents, who have been getting "free" residential trash pickup for the past 27 years, are being asked in a city survey their opinions on trash collection, recycling and the possibility of having to pay for curbside trash pickup.

The city says it will decide by Jan. 1 whether to charge for trash pickup. Five of the nine questions on the survey focus on the need for a curbside recycling program. One survey question seeks opinions on a proposal by the city to charge each residential customer $10 per month to pick up two 33-gallon bags and $1 for each additional bag. The city also proposes to charge $2 per month for unlimited curbside recycling. The fees would generate about $600,000 annually.

Since 1974, when Jackson passed a 1-cent sales tax to provide trash collection, develop city parks and improve the fire and police departments and streets, residents have not had to pay additionally for trash pickup.

It is remarkable the city has been able to continue to provide free service all these years considering its costs of collection and disposal have grown significantly as has its customer base. Since 1974, the city has had to shut down its landfill and instead pay tipping fees to dispose of trash. It has begun a recycling operation it didn't have before, and it has never limited residents to how much trash they can put at curbside. That feature, city officials say, has been abused by some who have allowed friends and neighbors who are nonresidents to bring their trash to town for the city to pick up.

In 1975, the city's combined sanitation department spent about $94,000. In 2001, the sanitation budget was $560,000. That amount included the tipping fees from the city's landfill fund and $100,000 to buy a sanitation truck.

The department employs seven people. About 20 percent of residential trash is recycled -- an impressive amount considering the city doesn't pick up trash for recycling. The state goal for cities is 40 percent, and the city likely could approach that percentage if it picked up recyclable trash.

The city's electric surplus fund is helping pay additional costs of trash collection and disposal, and that concerns city administrator Jim Roach. He says the day may come when Jackson no longer has the extra money to do so.

Everything points to a need for Jackson to adopt trash fees, but before that happens, residents are being given the opportunity to voice their opinions. They should take advantage of that opportunity, let the city make its case for trash fees, decide for themselves whether they are in the best interest of the city and let the city know how they feel about it.

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