Glenwood Springs’ costly curbside cleanup questioned
Glenwood Springs’ popular curbside Spring Cleanup will continue this year, albeit delayed after concerns were raised by the acting city manager about persistent abuse of the service and the weeks-long unsightliness that it creates around town.
Going forward, the program’s future is anything but certain, as City Council prepares to review its policies and procedures regarding the amenity.
The service is free to residents but is time-consuming and costs the city between $100,000 and $135,000 a year, according to a recent analysis of costs including wages, equipment, fuel and landfill fees.
Acting city manager Andrew Gorgey admitted that it’s too late to call things off for this year. But he is strongly recommending that the service be discontinued in the future, at least in its current format.
“I recognize that this is a very popular program,” Gorgey said at the Thursday night City Council meeting.
However, “the current program is being abused, both by citizens and by non-city residents who are carting their junk into the city’s jurisdiction and dumping it knowing that you will clean it up,” Gorgey said.
It also leads to several weeks during April when the city’s streets are piled with yard waste and other debris, including TVs, appliances and other items that are not allowed, while city crews make their way around to pick up and dispose of it, he said.
Given the city’s efforts to spruce things up during and after the Grand Avenue bridge construction, the curbside program is “inconsistent” with the larger policy to improve the town’s appearance, Gorgey said.
In its place, he suggests that the city adopt something similar to Garfield County’s landfill voucher program, which provides one free dump load per household at the county landfill each spring.
The city could do the same with its South Canyon Landfill, he said, adding that the city could assist the elderly or disabled with hauling items to the landfill as needed.
This year’s annual cleanup was announced briefly on the city website, prompting some residents to start putting debris on the street before a pickup schedule was posted. The announcement was pulled from the website until City Council could have a discussion on Thursday.
The schedule should be finalized by the middle of next week, said Dave Betley, assistant public works director for the city. Pickups will begin April 18, with a designated zone each week, and continue through May 6.
In the meantime, residents are asked to refrain from putting any more stuff on the curb until the schedule is announced, he said.
Council members were split as to whether the program should continue as it has in the past. However, all agreed that the rules must be better explained and enforced, and that the city can do a better job of collecting the debris in a more timely manner.
“As a resident, I love the ability to have this service,” Councilman Leo McKinney said. “But the reality is the city looks crappy for a good six weeks.
“We have to make the hard decisions, and this is one of those hard decisions,” he said, offering support for a landfill voucher system.
The program does need to be managed better, Councilman Matt Steckler said. But any thoughts of ending it altogether will likely spark the same “firestorm” that resulted the last time the service was called into question about five or six years ago.
Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said that any abuse of the service is mostly anecdotal, and probably accounts for only a small percentage of the people who participate.
“This is still the best value we can get for the buck in terms of sprucing the town up,” Bershenyi said. “In order to keep the town beautiful for the rest of the year, we have to do these sorts of things.”
A pair of senior citizens who caught wind of council’s discussion showed up at the meeting to defend the program.
“This is probably the best benefit I receive from my taxes to the city,” said Palmer Avenue resident Randi Henry.
“It does a lot more for this town than a lot of other things, like free city internet or burning up ($20,000) worth of fireworks in 15 minutes,” she said in reference to a recent council decision to fund Fourth of July fireworks this summer.
Another downtown-area resident, Pat Graddis, agreed.
“I think it’s wrong to end this,” she said. “People like to cut their brush in the spring, and I think this is a good endeavor to encourage a beautiful town. People will be less likely to do it if you did away with this.”
Mayor Michael Gamba said he would be reluctant to discontinue the service.
At the same time, if residents see their neighbors abusing it, or if they catch someone from out of town dumping items on one of the neighborhood piles, they should report it to police, Gamba said.
Generally, items that are not allowed to be put out as part of the spring cleanup include TVs and other electronics, appliances, tires, paints, oils and household hazardous wastes, according to Betley.
Residents can be cited if those items end up on the curb, or if they exceed the 5 cubic yard limit.
City Council will schedule a work session soon to discuss the future of the program.
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