Overland Park’s bulky item pickup program is headed for major changes due to modernization of trash trucks and pickup crews.
A city council committee on Wednesday weighed its options for the popular program in which waste haulers pick up furniture, mattresses and the like on certain weekends at designated sections of the city.
The consensus among committee members was that a system used by Shawnee and Lenexa that requires haulers to provide some large item pickup as part of its base service to every resident would be the most likely option for the future.
However, councilmembers cautioned that any change ought to be carefully researched because of the popularity of the program.
Also, neighborhoods not served by homeowners associations should be protected from a likely increase in the amount they’d be charged.
“This is a much-loved service of our residents so we need to be very careful about how we transition due to market conditions,” said Councilmember Curt Skoog.
Challenges to current system
Special pickup days for bulky items has been a part of the city’s trash service since the 1980s but has been changing since 2015 because of new ways haulers operate, said Jim Twigg, the city’s environmental programs coordinator.
Trash companies now use side-loading trucks with robotic arms, rather than the back-loading ones that were better suited to large items, he said. The new trucks have also allowed the haulers to reduce the number of workers on each trash route, which makes it harder for those left to pick up large items.
At the same time, Waste Management, which is the only trash company interested in picking up large items, has increased its cost to the city.
Last year the price jumped from $105 per ton to $193 per ton, Twigg said.
He estimated that the current system would only be viable for two or three more years.
On Wednesday, Twigg offered options that included the base level requirement, moving to a drop-off only system or having the bulky item pickup only for non-HOA neighborhoods, since the associations usually negotiate trash pickup for their own areas.
Making the service part of the city’s base plan differs from the current bulky item pickup in that it’s on an individual basis and spread throughout the year, making it easier on trash haulers.
The current system clusters pickup days in certain areas all at once.
Neighborhoods without HOAs were a concern for councilmembers because there would likely be a price increase for them that would not be paid by HOAs, whose members are in a better bargaining position than individual homeowners.
“The challenge we have is that our residents who are not part of homes associations are already carrying a heavier burden than other residents for their trash pickup because they’re not part of a buying cooperative,” Skoog said.
He suggested looking into the possibility of creating a trash district in which the city could negotiate for areas without homes associations.
Councilmember Faris Farassati said residents should be asked for their opinions, and suggested that the smaller trash haulers who were pushed out by national companies could be incentivized to fill in the void, if that would be possible.
“I am not for cutting service that are extremely important for a lot of senior residents who depend on it no matter if they are an HOA or not. Families depend on it, it’s a matter of quality of life,” he said.
Other committee members, including Councilmember Tom Carignan, said some form of bulky item pickup should be available because many residents won’t have trucks or physical capacity to drop off their own items.
But they also said they’d like the mattress pickup — a service for which residents must register separately — to continue and would like to include drop-off events throughout the city.
“None of us on this committee want to see this program end,” said Councilmember Chris Newlin.”But as costs go up and things change we have to change as a city and come up with clever ideas and different ways around it so the service can be handled properly.”