Champaign's yard-waste program begins today with slight change

Champaign's yard-waste program begins today with slight change

CHAMPAIGN — Yard-waste pickup begins today in Champaign, and if all goes according to plan, most residents won't notice a difference in the curbside program.

But behind the scenes is a bit different. City officials hope they can provide better service and save nearly $50,000 by doing the pickup themselves.

The new white truck bearing city of Champaign decals that some people will see running routes this fall isn't your average garbage truck. For the first time, city employees will be picking up refuse for residents who city officials say have increasingly come to rely on the yard-waste program.

For all but one of the last 13 years, Republic Services has won a contract for the program. But scheduling issues and inflexibility when the truck missed a bag has driven customer complaints over the years. City officials think they can do a better job themselves and on their own terms.

"Frankly, the city had already been taking care a lot of the complaints itself," said public works spokesman Kris Koester. "If the contractor missed a bag or a resident called with a complaint, city officials would often end up going out themselves to address it."

So they're just going to do it themselves from the beginning — "sort of eliminate a step in the process," Koester said. It's no small task — they've rented and equipped a truck and hired two new employees to do the work.

A bit of a bonus: "One thing we have realized out of it is we're going to have two full-time employees who are temporary for a full year, rent a truck, pay for the fuel and some other expenses and still end up saving $50,000," Koester said.

The contract for the program with Republic Services cost the city $166,900 last year.

Those two employees will be available for other tasks during the 38 weeks of the year when they are not collecting yard waste.

The 14 weeks they are on yard-waste duty promise to be busy, though: 4,244 cubic yards of waste were collected in fall 2013 (that's 187 truckloads). Another 2,209 cubic yards (93 truckloads) were collected in spring 2014, and crews collected 125 cubic yards (seven truckloads) of Christmas trees after the holiday last year.

In other words, it's a very heavily used city function.

"I think people have come to rely on it as a service," Koester said.

The in-house version of the yard-waste program will be a one-year trial. Koester said it will be evaluated sometime next year after they've been doing it for a little while and judged based on whether it reduces customer complaints, improves response time to those complaints and whether the crews can complete all the collections on schedule.

When will the truck come?

Yard-waste collection begins in Champaign today and runs through November. The truck will visit homes once every two weeks depending on location.

You can see the map and schedule on the city's website to determine when the yard-waste truck will come to your house.

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