Lawton city administrators are proceeding with plans that could move curbside bulk pickups in residential areas to Mondays — but not until next year.
City Council members voted Tuesday to spend up to $850,000 to buy four, 11-yard rear load trucks, a vehicle that plays a key role in the monthly collection program that allows residents to set out items that don’t fit into their polycarts. While the rear load trucks aren’t the heavy lifters — that role is played by the grapple arm trucks — the trucks do bring strong arguments to the table.
The strongest: their drivers don’t have to hold commercial driver licenses, as they do when handling the grapple trucks, because of their lighter weight.
Public Works Director Larry Wolcott said the trucks have multiple uses in his department because they are a component of commercial trash collections. That commercial collection work is the reason curbside bulk collections begin on Wednesday: that is the lightest day, in terms of the workload involved in collecting debris from commercial customers. Wolcott said the city has gained 150 commercial customers in recent years, which increases the overall workload.
“Monday is our heaviest commercial day,” he said.
That’s why Public Works has offered a plan to expand their work force by four vehicles, which would mean more vehicles available for trash collection. Wolcott has said increasing the number of vehicles, and possibly employees to man them, would help address problems with blowing trash and debris. The suggestion was among the staff proposals offered last month as city officials search for ways to make trash collection cleaner, fitting into stricter requirements that threaten residents with premium collection charges if they don’t follow the rules of setting out bulk items.
But this solution can’t begin immediately. The trucks have an estimated delivery time of eight months from the time they are ordered, meaning the four new trucks won’t be available until year’s end. That, in turn, means a change to curbside collections won’t occur until January, city administrators said.
Wolcott said each truck will cost an estimated $200,000, with the city staff setting a not-to-exceed total of $850,000 to buy the vehicles through an Oklahoma State Purchasing contract.
The good news: the amount of city funds to be spent will be much lower.
Lawton has $638,532 in an Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality Off-Road reimbursement grant that “will go a long way” toward purchasing the trucks, Wolcott said. He said the vehicles also are lower-maintenance than grapple trucks, and can be used for other things.
The vehicle purchase wasn’t the only decision the council wants. Council members also indicated they want city administrators to research the idea of hiring a private firm to handle residential bulk collections, to see if that method would be more efficient and cost effective than using city staff.
Curbside bulk collections were added to residential neighborhoods last year, after the council made the decision to go to once-a-week residential trash collections. The system has prompted some residential complaints, both for the loss of twice-a-week collection service and from debris that some say is more common because residents aren’t following the rules when setting out their bulk debris.
“I kinda wish we’d never started this,” said Mayor Stan Booker, who has been pushing for stronger enforcement of trash regulations as a way to clean up the community.