Shawnee may allow more flexible dates for Tidy Town bulky item pickup program

Shawnee may allow more flexible trash pickup dates for the city’s annual Tidy Town bulky item pickup program.

The Shawnee City Council in a committee meeting Aug. 4 voted 4-3 to keep the city’s bulky item pickup program the same with the exception that pickup dates would be negotiable in conjunction with trash haulers’ availability.

Councilmembers Lisa Larson-Bunnell, Eric Jenkins, Mike Kemmling and Tammy Thomas voted in favor. Councilmembers Jill Chalfie, Lindsay Constance and Matt Zimmerman voted in dissent. Councilmember Kurt Knappen was absent.

The city council will take official action on this change Aug. 24.

The city requires that licensed trash haulers offer bulky item collection services to Shawnee residents at least once a year. City staff coordinates the annual event each spring. The city also operates a drop-off site as part of the event at the southwest corner of Johnson Drive and Renner Road, the same site as storm debris drop off.

The city this May moved the Tidy Town program to a self-scheduling format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Caitlin Gard, assistant city manager, said the city received fewer complaints this year as a result of more direct communication between trash haulers and their customers.

Drop off items must meet the same criteria as curbside pickup items, and residents must unload their own items.

Challenges with current program

In its current format, the program has some challenges, according to city staff and trash haulers. Haulers have fewer equipment to accommodate bulky item pickup.

Additionally, Kirby Wiley, management analyst for the city, said the city serves as an intermediary between residents and trash haulers, which could create inefficiencies or confusion during the program. Staff recommended requiring more communication to come directly from the haulers.

“A lot of these questions come from, ‘My house was missed,’ or, ‘There’s always confusion on what weekend you are,’” Wiley said.  “There’s an extra layer of communication that can cause some barriers to really get the residents the information that they need right away.”

Other challenges:

  • Traffic congestion at the drop-off site
  • Some residents are unable to unload bulky items from their vehicles, though this is a requirement at the drop-off site
  • Trash haulers are restricted by employee and equipment availability to complete Tidy Town bulky item pickup within a three-weekend period

City staff had recommended allowing trash haulers to coordinate bulky item pickup scheduling with their customers based on the haulers’ available resources.

The program cost the city $48,600 to operate in 2019. Storm debris operations cost about $23,000 to operate for a one-week period. In 2019, about 1.4 million pounds of bulky items went into the Johnson County Landfill, according to city documents.

Some city leaders didn’t want to see many changes to the program — including designated dates for Tidy Town instead of flexible scheduling. Councilmembers cited its popularity among residents and the recycling and upcycling effect of Tidy Town, when residents have garage sales ahead of the event, and some bulky items get picked up the night before by metal scrappers and other residents interested in reusing items.

“I think the costs associated with this are absolutely minimal, and the benefits to our city and keeping up the appearance of our city, not having a bunch of junk in people’s backyards or on their decks is certainly worth that small amount of investment,” said Councilmember Eric Jenkins.

City staff recommended only opening the storm debris drop-off site when a natural disaster is declared. Instead, the city would encourage residents to utilize curbside yard waste services, get a burn permit or hire private removal services. The city council did not vote on this recommendation.

Staff have also created a residents’ guide on alternative methods of disposal as well as recycling.