City promises trash savings, but some council members aren’t buying it

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A joint council committee Wednesday failed to approve a plan for city workers to take over trash collection in all neighborhoods.

The committee deadlocked on the change in a 4 to 4 vote.

Many on the council aren't convinced that city workers can pick up trash more cost effectively than the private sector.

"Are your estimates really something we can rely on?" Councilwoman Katheryn Shields asked.

The city's solid waste division estimates taxpayers will save nearly $22-million over 10 years by moving all trash collection in-house. Taxpayers would have to spend about $20-million to buy 24 trash trucks and build a solid waste center.

"We want to pull the contract, start all over, buy a whole new fleet, spend $20-million on capital expenditures because we don`t want to work through the challenges with contractors we have now," Councilwoman Alissia Canady said, who opposed the change. "I don't know that`s the best approach under the circumstances."

A surge in complaints from Northlanders and citizens in south Kansas City about missed trash pickups by private contractors, prompted the city to consider taking over all garbage collection.

"We expect our mailman to show up," said Councilwoman Heather Hall. "We expect the police, we expect the fire to show up. We expect our trash to be picked up. Period. End of story. They pay for it. They get it picked up."

But some are concerned that a government takeover of trash would put out of business one of Kansas City's largest minority contractors.

"Eighty percent of my employees live in 64130 zip code," Chuck Byrd said, owner of Jim's Disposal Service. "They depend on this company to provide for their families. I'm not sitting up here trying to give you a pity party. What I am telling you as a small business owner, I don't have the flexibility of a large company."

But the promise of better service in bulky item, and leaf and brush pick up has others convinced to make the switch.

"I want to be able to have somebody who makes sure their hands are on the bags," Councilman Kevin McManus said. "That`s really what it's about to me. Usually when we make decisions here it`s like, 'Ok we will pay a little more for better service.' To me this is a no-brainer."

Any change must be made by May of next year. That`s when the private contracts expire.

The council will discuss taking over trash collection again after members receive more detailed cost calculations.

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