The Crossett City Council will host a public meeting next month to discuss stopping or changing some of the city’s services to be more efficient.
The meeting will be at 5:15 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Crossett Economic Development Foundation.
The city’s leaf, limb and junk pickup has been a regular discussion of the council for more than a year, and the council is asking for residents’ input before making a final decision.
The city has nowhere to dispose of leaves and limbs because of how the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) defines the debris. Once the city picks leaves and limbs, by law they are considered solid waste and must be treated as such.
City data shows that in 2018 city workers collected approximately 7,808 loads of junk, 7,627 loads of leaves and 11,626 loads of limbs.
Not only is there an issue with what to do with these items once they are picked up, but Councilwoman Lynn Rodgers said she is also concerned about the efficiency of these services in light of needed maintenance on vehicles and other factors, including the amount of manpower it takes to provide these services.
The leaf service has also contributed to the drainage problems in the city because several residents have placed their leaves in the road instead of on the edge of their yard. On the other side, residents trying to dispose of the leaves on their own by burning them recently cost the city approximately $35,000. Public Works Director Jeff Harrison said a resident recently damaged the city drainage system by burning leaves on top of a city drain that was located in the resident’s yard.
Harrison took a review of the costs of all services offered by the city and the options that the city has to move forward to the council Monday.
One of the options included purchasing a trash truck that would require citizens to have a certain type of trash can that costs approximately $65 per can. The new system would require fewer workers than the current trucks require and would be safer for the employees, thereby cutting down on accidents and workman’s’ compensation claims. The new cans would also prevent animals from spreading trash around the city.
“You can go down almost any street and see where dogs are getting in trash and the new cans would eliminate that problem,” Harris said.
The new system would only change the residential trash pickup, he said, and commercial pick up would still stay the same.
The new system would also require less manpower than the current one, allowing more emplyees to be available for leaf, limb and junk pick up. The new truck needed for the system, however, could cost the city approximately $250,000.
Implenting an entire new system was only one of four options that Harrison presented to the council, however. The other options involved restructuring the current system.
Harrison said that when the leaf, limb and junk services first started in 2005, the city went from 18 employees in the department to 31 in 2007 because that’s how many were necessary to maintain the service.
When budget restraints hit in the following years, that department was downsized and is currently at 15 employees. Harrison said that one of those is an office employee and one a supervisor, leaving only 13 to work around the city. Eleven of those 13 employees are required to handle trash collection and leaf, limb and junk pickup.
Harrison said stopping the extra service altogether would free up manpower so that city employees could work on litter control, sign replacement and other city jobs that currently get neglected because there aren’t enough city workers to handle those areas.
“We’ve got stop signs all over town with graffiti on them right now, but we just don’t have anyone to change them,” he said.
Harrison provided the council with what the city is currently paying for maintenance, labor, fuel and equipment along with ways to rearrange the department. In order to continue the limb, leaf and junk pickup, the city is going to have to make big equipment purchases in order to be able to dispose of the items legally and not be cited by the ADEQ.
The public works director said that in addition to the disposal problem, the service is inconsistent because the city is trying to do the job without the proper equipment causing pickups to be delayed for maintenance.
“It’s costing a lot more to not do the job the way it needs to be done,” Harrison said.
Councilman Carey Carter suggested the council publish Harrison’s information and the data that was provided to the council so that members of the public knew their options before the public meeting Feb. 11.
Rodgers said the city would make the information available on its Facebook page and provide copies of the information at the public meeting.
The council members all said they encourage the public to attend the meeting so that they can explain the situation and try to find the best possible solution.
“Nobody likes to take anything away, but when the facts are on the table, we just have to do what is best for everyone,” Rodgers said.