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Kansas City Officials Looking To Fix Ongoing Trash Pickup Delays In The Northland

Diane Krauthamer
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City residents who live in the Northland are seeing ongoing delays in trash collection. Some officials suggest switching to rolling trash bins, like the ones piloted in Kansas City's Marlborough neighbood last year.

Kansas City, Missouri, residents north of the Missouri River say they are sick of delays in their trash and recycling pick-up.

Councilwoman Heather Hall, who represents part of Kansas City North, says she’s received thousands of complaints and is suffering right along with her constituents. 

"I've lived in my house 19 years, and (for) 18 years and three months, my trash was picked up every single day like clockwork — exact same time... no problems at all. In the last eight months it's been random to say the least," Hall says. 

At a City Hall meeting about the issue on Monday, Michael Shaw, manager of solid waste, said the delays began late last December when extreme cold weather and staffing shortages stalled pickup during trash amnesty week, one of two weeks during the year when residents can set out as many as 15 bags of trash to be picked up without any additional charge.

Crews had difficulty catching up, Shaw said, and extreme heat during the more recent trash amnesty week, after the July 4 holiday, set them back again. Still, Shaw said, the delays are unacceptable.

“Heat, equipment and staffing is a normal part of our business, we plan for this, we know it’s coming. We address these with additional staff or whatever we’ve got to do to protect ufrom those anomalies,” Shaw said. 

Kansas City outsources trash pickup to private companies. 

Shaw said the city has already arranged additional trucks to routes in the Northland, and that he hopes to explore GPS technology to track progress and identify and address issues. 

In the longer term, he said the city might take a bigger management role with its contractors. City Manager Troy Schulte also said there might be a point in the near future when the city takes over trash collection. As the trash collection business consolidates into big, national companies, he said, it's increasingly difficult to find local contractors.  

"If we continue to see rate increases, what we're seeing at the national trend... at some point it will be cheaper for us to step back into this business," Schulte said. 

The city council is also considering different collection methods, such as switching to rolling bins that can be lifted into trucks mechanically rather than leaving trash bags at the curb, an option favored by councilwoman Hall. 

But that could cost millions of dollars and might not be feasible in all parts of the city. 

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster at KCUR 89.3.  You can reach her at lisa@kcur.org

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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