New look coming to Fort Dodge trash collection system

Most Fort Dodge residents will experience a whole new way of taking out the trash and recycling materials later this year.

The days of putting the trash in plastic bags will end. Also, the process of sorting materials for recycling before putting them into a blue bin will conclude.

The bags and bins will be replaced with 96-gallon containers provided by the city. One will be for trash. Recycling materials, which will not have to be sorted, will go in the other one.

Those bins will be picked up by new trucks that will lift and empty them with mechanical arms.

The new sanitation collection system is proposed to begin in seven to eight months, City Manager David Fierke told the City Council Monday.

The proposed 2013-2014 budget for the sanitation division of the Public Works Department includes about $1.3 million for equipment needed to switch to the new collection system.

That total includes $500,000 for two new garbage trucks with the mechanical arms.

It also includes $854,500 to buy the containers that will be given to homeowners.

The City Council examined the spending plan for sanitation and was briefed on the new system as it continued its work on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The total sanitation budget is proposed to be $2,460,443.

The current budget is $1,232,741.

The purchases needed for the new system account for much of the increase.

The city government has cash to pay for the new trucks and the containers thanks to a 2010 rate increase. On July 1 of that year, monthly sanitation bills went from $9.60 per month to $14.50 per month.

The new system follows an ongoing test in the city in which 200 households – 100 on the north side and 100 on the south side – have been allowed to dispose of their recycling materials by putting them unsorted into containers provided by the city. That test began in September.

According to Public Works Director Greg Koch, 65 percent of the the 200 households included in the test are now using curbside recycling.

Prior to the test, he said, 12 percent of them participated.

He attributed the increased participation to the ease of placing all materials in one container without sorting it.

Koch said garbage will continue to be collected every week once the new system in in place.

He said the pickup of recycling material will be done once every two weeks.

The collected recyclables will go to the regional recycling center on Gypsum Hollow Road. From there they will be transported to Greenstar, a materials recovery facility in Des Moines that accepts recyclables that haven’t been sorted. Koch said Greenstar will pay the city for the material, but added that he doesn’t think the recycling operation will be profitable.

”I don’t expect us to make money,” he said. ”I expect us to break even.”

He added that he believes the city will save $30,000 a year in landfill fees as a result of increased participation in curbside recycling.

There are currently nine workers in the sanitation division. Because the new trucks can be operated by one person, the number of workers will gradually be reduced to five. Fierke said no one will be laid off. He said the downsizing will occur through retirements, resignations and the transfer of employees to other duties in the Public Works Department.

The city now has three garbage trucks. Koch said the newest one will be kept, but the two older ones will be sold after the new trucks arrive.

Koch added that once the new system is in place, the number of recycling drop boxes positioned around the city will be gradually reduced. He said a few of the 16 boxes now in place will be kept.