Champaign tries taking yard-waste collection in-house

Champaign tries taking yard-waste collection in-house

CHAMPAIGN — City officials hope bringing yard waste pickup in-house will help them to provide better customer service to residents who use the program.

And if their cost estimates are right, they could save a bit of money by picking up residents' yard waste themselves, too. The service until now has been contracted out to private haulers.

City council members this week signed off on the one-year trial that will require the city to hire two temporary employees and rent a garbage truck. Beginning in October, they'll start making their rounds to pick up residents' leaves, branches and other fall yard waste.

It's a service that a lot of Champaign residents use, city officials said as they were considering the changes this summer. It started with a leaf collection and Christmas tree pickup in 1986 and evolved over time into today's program, for which the city has paid haulers to bring yard waste from residents' curbs to the landscape recycling center in Urbana.

"It is a program that they're very attuned to, and I think at this point have become very dependent on it," said public works operations manager Ernesto Salinas.

Except for one year when Illini Recycling won the bid, the contract has gone to what is now Republic Services for the past 13 years, according to city documents. Last year, the deal cost the city $166,900 for 14 weeks' worth of work in the spring and fall.

There have been service issues, though. City officials say complaints can get caught in an infinite loop between the contractor and the public works department and are not efficiently addressed. And the contract itself does not provide for much flexibility when bags are missed or the weather does not cooperate.

"It's always been difficult to predict the weather in the late fall and when the leaves will fall and when people will have a clear day to rake their yards," council member Tom Bruno said on Tuesday. "And it's caused disruption, and we've gotten less than great service from the private contractors to whom we have let out bids in the past."

By hiring two new employees and doing it themselves, city officials think they can be more responsive to customers' requests. They think they can do it for $120,000 per year — about $46,000 less than what they have been paying Republic Services.

"This way, if we're doing it in-house, we'll be able to adjust to those changing conditions, move collection days around as needed to accomplish citizen demand," Bruno said. "And I think it's going to provide a much better service to citizens in the future. This is one thing we can do better than the service we've been receiving letting out bids."

The two temp employees will be available for other public works services — like patching potholes and dealing with snow — for the other 38 weeks of the year that they are not collecting yard waste.

Pickup starts Oct. 6 in Champaign

CHAMPAIGN — The city's annual fall yard waste collection will run from Oct. 6 through Nov. 29.

The free curbside pickup service is available to all residential properties in the city limits. Residents should place bagged leaves and bundled branches and twigs at the curb no later than 6 a.m. on their scheduled pickup date.

Pickups happen on specific days of the week determined by zones. Residents can refer to the city's website to determine their zone and pickup day:

Materials must be in 30-gallon paper yard waste bags. Plastic bags or containers are not allowed. Twigs and branches may be bundled with non-metallic twine or placed in paper yard waste bags. Branches may not be larger than 2 inches in diameter and 3 1/2 feet long. Bundles may not be larger than 18 inches in diameter.

Yard waste can also be brought year-round to the landscape recycling center at 1210 E. University Ave., U, but there is a fee for all materials brought directly to the center.

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