Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sun Valley approves recycling ordinance

New trash fees provide incentive to recycle

Express Staff Writer

After an arduous process, the Sun Valley City Council unanimously approved a "Comprehensive Solid Waste Reduction and Recyclable Materials Collection Agreement" and the subsequent fee schedule on Thursday, May 17.

The new agreement is intended to reduce the overall waste production of the city by providing financial incentive to throw away less and recycle more. The action is part of the city's larger effort to adhere to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which calls on cities to reduce emissions of polluting greenhouse gases.

Residents will decide on a trash bin size that fits their needs. In addition, they will receive up to six recycle bins for glass, aluminum and tin, newspapers, magazines, white paper and plastics number 1 and 2.

The teeth of the new approach lies in the cost structure agreed upon by the council and Ketchum-based Clear Creek Disposal, the company awarded the exclusive contract. Fees for single-family residential homes will be $17 per month for a 32-gallon trash bin, $25 for a 68-gallon bin and $38 for the largest 95-gallon bin. Those who recycle more will likely use smaller trash bins, the theory goes.

Since the ordinance first came before the council in January, citizens have voiced concern that the change in prices could result in a windfall profit for Clear Creek. The contract allows for city oversight of Clear Creek's profit margin. On Sept. 1, 2007, Dec. 1, 2007, and annually thereafter on May 1, Clear Creek is required to report to the city administrator to assess the success of the program. If unintended profits arise or if Clear Creek is found to lose money, the contract can be amended accordingly.

Single-family residences will be billed on a quarterly basis and business and condominiums will be billed monthly. Fees are different for business and condominiums, which are based on larger dumpsters.

Aside from fees, two issues were the focus of debate over the past several meetings. One is the inclusion of a "green" waste removal program during the summer months. Initially, Clear Creek agreed to pick up green waste (grass clippings, leaves, etc.) and place it in the Ohio Gulch Transfer Station's compost pile only if 200 Sun Valley residents signed up for the $16.70-per-month service.

In Thursday's meeting, Clear Creek agreed to provide the service with no minimum sign-up requirements. The program will begin this summer and run through October.

"To me that is significant," Councilman Nils Ribi said. "That is going to take a large chunk of non-recyclable material out of the trash--material that will be turned into compost that can be reused here in Blaine County."

The other issue receiving significant debate time over the past several meetings has been how to better accommodate part-time Sun Valley residents. The council has expressed concerns that for a better part of the year, temporary residents would not use the trash service but would be required to pay monthly service charges. Then, when they are in town, often times during the holiday months when trash production spikes, there is a good chance that they will go over their trash bin capacity and be forced to pay $6.50 for a Clear Creek-issued garbage bag intended for overflow.

The council and Clear Creek decided to provide all residents of Sun Valley four overflow bags per year, free of charge. In addition, trash bins and recycle containers will be set up at City Hall and at the Elkhorn Fire Station to allow residents leaving town to drop off their refuse prior to leaving.

There is a six-month education period during which the city and Clear Creek will work with residents and businesses in the implementation process.

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