More than 200 at work session on trash hauling
COTTONWOOD — While Tuesday’s work session didn’t lead the Cottonwood City Council to a specific set of instructions regarding solid waste hauling, it was clear council members had less opposition to the idea of a single hauler than many in the audience.
After listening to a presentation by City Management Analyst Morgan Scott and the staff recommendation to issue a request for a proposal for a single hauler, the council then heard from 27 people.
All 27 were opposed to the concept of a single hauler for Cottonwood, preferring to be able to continue with the longstanding free-market arrangement.
Mayor Tim Elinski and four other members of the Council voiced no opposition to sending out a request for proposal for a single hauler, though he and others said they still wanted to hear more from city staff.
Vice Mayor Tosca Henry and appointed Councilwoman Jackie Nairn were the only members of the council to clearly say they feel a single hauler is the wrong approach for Cottonwood.
Most Cottonwood are able to choose between Patriot Disposal, Taylor Waste and Waste Management. The Council has studied the possibility of going to one contracted hauler three times in the past 10 years.
Scott’s presentation focused on two motivations: Saving each customer money and preserving roads. He said a fully loaded trash truck weighs at least 64,000 pounds — about double the weight of a typical UPS or FedEx delivery van. Scott said some streets in the city are traversed by heavy garbage trucks as many as 10 times in a week — something that could be reduced by “as much as 80 percent” with a single hauler.
“That math just does not compute,” said James Combs, one of the public speakers at the work session. “Too many times, in this nation’s history, we’ve abandoned something that is working for something that sounded good.”
Scott said of 33 Arizona communities questioned by Cottonwood, nine have no regulation on garbage service, another nine have a single hauler and 15 use city employees for trash collection.
He also mentioned that a main arterial street and/or state road, such as Main Street, might have four inches of asphalt on a six- to eight-inch base, whereas residential streets aren’t built as thick, to save money on construction costs.
In describing the pluses of sending out a request for proposal, Scott detailed the specifics the city could require of a hauler, such as recycling services, price controls and other elements.
Scott said his department was contacted by 29 people opposed to a single hauler and six who are in favor of such a change. Most of the municipalities in Yavapai County have no designated hauler.
The City of Prescott hauls trash using its own employees; the Town of Clarkdale has had Patriot Disposal as its single-source hauler since 2007.
The owners of both Patriot Disposal and Taylor Waste were at Tuesday’s work session.
Jay Eby, owner of Patriot Disposal, told The Verde Independent he likes Cottonwood’s arrangement the way it is, and that if he were to lose out in a bidding process, he would still be able to find customers elsewhere.
Chris Taylor and his wife, Tandy, the co-owners of Taylor Waste, both spoke at the session, mainly touting the way they’ve been able to build a small, profitable, community-partner business, thanks largely to the free-enterprise system Cottonwood has permitted.
They and more than a dozen other speakers pointed out that Taylor Waste is a major private-sector employer in Cottonwood, and those employees tend to live, engage and spend money in the city.
Some of the local residents with the deepest ties to the area, such as John Ortiz, spoke on behalf of the current arrangement.
No specific instructions were given to city staff by Elinski or any council members. Mayor Elinski promised that if any action is taken, such as the “no strings attached” proposal he’d like to see sent out, the council will bring that back to the public first. Scott said it’s possible another work session on the subject could take place in the months ahead.
Council members Deb Althouse and Michael Mathews want to see a request for proposal go out to see if the city can get the job done at low cost and with less wear on roads. Althouse and Mathews also took exception to Taylor Waste's mailing of letters after the work session had been announced, encouraging customers to speak their minds at the work session.
Elinski said he feels he owes it to taxpayers to at least study the issue further, and see if major parameters can be placed on a potential single source and to stretch taxpayer dollars further.
Elinski said he received about four or five emails in support of single-hauler. Councilman Ruben Jauregui said he'd like to hear from "both sides," as in more from those who support single-hauler. Councilman Doug Hulse said he heard nothing from the crowd regarding ways to avoid impact to roads; several citizens said street conditions are a municipal function and fiscal responsibility.
Several speakers said they are willing to undergo a tax increase or make changes to curbside pickups — such as placing all trash cans on one side of a street — in order to avoid eliminating choice of haulers. Vice Mayor Henry was among those not entirely convinced that trash trucks are a main reason some streets are in disrepair.
“Previous councils did not properly address this aging part of infrastructure,” the vice mayor said.
Local resident Dusty Bowers, reflecting on the city using a chip-seal method to repair dilapidated streets, said, “maybe chip-seal isn’t what we should be doing. Maybe we need to find something better.”
Susan Pytwan, a resident of South 12th Street, said the council had more important concerns, such as drug use, pesticide use or why her street seems to need roadwork on such an ongoing basis. Charlene Zack echoed that sentiment, suggesting water issues are a much bigger priority for Cottonwood.
“We told you ‘no’ twice before,” Zack said. “This proposal is ludicrous. The city should have zero financial interest in this.”