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Kannapolis looks at ‘right-sizing’ its solid waste collection

KANNAPOLIS — With the city’s current solid waste collection contract set to expire in June, Kannapolis officials on Monday met to talk about possible changes in the service.

The focus, said Director of Public Works Wilmer Melton, is on “right-sizing” the offerings for trash and recycling collection. Currently, Kannapolis is offering a “Cadillac program,” he said.

“You put it out there, we’re going to get it,” he said.

Melton said that although this sounds ideal, the expansive level of service has led to some abuses: cluttered roadsides, illegal dumping and scavenging, to name a few.

Melton said that right-sizing the service — or adjusting certain aspects of peripheral services such bulky waste, recycling, e-waste and white goods — could help alleviate these problems.

During a presentation to the Kannapolis City Council, Melton explained that bulky wastes are items that would not fit inside the city-provided, 96-gallon receptacles. They include extra bags, cardboard boxes and furniture.

There is no limit on the amount of bulk waste the city will collect, and it is collected weekly.

Melton said this limitless offering has led to whole houses being cleared and discarded items haphazardly stacked by the roadside or scattered throughout a yard.

He suggested scaling back bulk waste collection to biweekly, on the same schedule as recycling. He also suggested limiting the amount collected to just 5 cubic yards per collection or 10 cubic yards per month.

He suggested a similar schedule for white goods — appliances like freezers, refrigerators, stoves and microwaves.

Melton suggested no changes to recycling schedules, though he said additional education efforts are needed so the public knows what items are accepted.

For e-waste, Melton wants to switch from a site-based collection to curbside collection. This, he said, would reduce another sort of abuse — when individuals come to collection sites and remove valuable materials.

Council member Ryan Dayvault said that right-sizing the service would be a fine line to balance.

“I don’t want to see us get to a point where people are making more excuses for not cleaning up what they should be cleaning up,” Dayvault said.

Dayvault also expressed concern for and dissatisfaction with the city’s current contractors, saying customer service has been poor and the limb and leaf service has been so lax the city had to start its own collection.

Councilman Doug Wilson agreed, citing instances in which collection bins were left overturned in residents’ yards.

“Whatever route we go, we want to make sure we’re getting a good company that really wants our business,” Dayvault said. “… I think done right and with the correct amount of investment by the company, whether it’s the current company or a new company, we can make this a better service for our residents, especially as we’re asking them to pay more for the service over time.”

But Melton said measures are already being taken to address these complaints, with new trucks that allow workers better views and software that tracks workers on their routes.

No scheduling changes were implemented during the Monday meeting, though Melton said he would take the council’s feedback to complete the contract before putting it out to bid.

“I believe all the recommendations we’ve given to you tonight will be a savings to the city and will allow you some opportunities,” said Melton. “… I don’t think you’re talking about cutting service at all. I think it’s just right-sizing for what we see on the curb.”

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