Things change: New trash service won't be that difficult
BY JANET PEARSON Associate Editor
Sunday, October 30, 2011
10/30/11 at 5:01 AM
It was a typical Saturday morning, which meant tackling typical tasks. My husband hauled out the vacuum cleaner while I started on the laundry.
It wasn't long before I heard the vacuum cleaner shut off, followed by a shout of consternation.
"What was that, dear?" I hollered back as I headed that way. "It sounded like you said, 'There's a snake in the vacuum cleaner.' "
"There IS a snake in the vacuum cleaner!" he bellowed back.
With the vacuum cleaner supine on the floor, the three of us eyed each other warily - the angry, coiled snake, still halfway in the sweeper, my husband and myself safely out of striking distance.
It didn't take long to conclude it was time for a new vacuum cleaner.
This column isn't really about reptiles taking up residence in small appliances. It's about life's every-day challenges.
I love living on a large acreage in Tulsa's beautiful, wooded hills, so bountiful with the flora and fauna that never cease to amaze and delight. The views are spectacular and the solitude soothing. But living out here also means an occasional close encounter of the unexpected kind.
It also means twice-a-month refuse collection. Yes, you read that right: Thanks to some historical oddity, we get refuse collection only on every other Wednesday.
You think you can't live without twice-a-week service? Take it from someone who's been living with twice-a-month, cart-based service for more than 15 years: It can be done. In fact, it's not even that difficult.
You might even find there are aspects of the proposed new collection system worth embracing, believe it or not.
The Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy has been working for years on a new refuse-collection plan that has become necessary, among other reasons, because the contract with the current hauler, Tulsa Refuse Inc., is about to expire. TARE's efforts have spawned the most intense controversy in recent memory.
Unfortunately, TARE has not been able to get its message out effectively - and at times a few members have even sounded a bit hostile and arrogant - so the Tulsa public, by and large, has turned on them.
In the interest of fairness and harmony, why not try to understand why the changes are being sought? Believe it or not, TARE isn't pushing change just to tick off vast numbers of Tulsans.
Often lost in the din of controversy is the fact Tulsa actually has two refuse-collection systems. In the northwest part of the city, customers receive once-a-week, cart-based service provided by city crews. TARE says surveys show these customers "have the same high level of customer satisfaction" as Tulsans served by the twice-a-week service, which is not cart-based. The once-a-week cart-users pay about $3 less a month.
But - and this is important - all Tulsa customers are being subsidized to the tune of about $1 a month, thanks to a reserve fund that is dwindling - another reason change is necessary.
TARE members believe the fairest, most efficient approach is a uniform, citywide system with rates based on trash volume and types of services utilized, that also incentivizes recycling - which will also help reduce volume and keep costs down.
The idea is to require those who dispose of more to pay more, rather than penalize recyclers and conservationists who help keep trash volume down, which is what the current system does.
TARE officials say there still will be green-waste pickup, unlimited bulky-waste pickup and special backyard, premium, and elderly collection services under the new system - but these customers will have to pay more, because their services will require more work. Under the current system, customers who don't need green-waste or bulky-waste pickup are subsidizing those who do.
While lots of Tulsans don't like the idea of having to pay for extra services, if you think about it, it's imminently fair. As TARE's question-and-answer materials on the subject point out, " ... trash service, like water and electricity, is a public utility that should be paid for based on consumption." If your neighbor uses more water than you, don't you think he should pay more?
Under the new system, Tulsans will be able to choose from three sizes of carts, and a recycling cart also will be included. Recycling won't be mandatory and residents won't have to pay extra, as they currently do, to have recyclables hauled off.
Another TARE requirement is a move to CNG trucks, an effort to address the city's long-running air-pollution issues, which for years have posed "serious health and economic concerns" for Tulsa. Even many of the city's current haulers agree that the aging truck fleet should be replaced and that the move to CNG trucks is a good idea.
It IS broke
You say you don't want to pay higher refuse rates? Nobody ever wants to pay higher rates for anything. But it should be no surprise that the cost of a service has grown over the years. Water, sewer, electricity, natural gas, gasoline - all have continued to rise as time goes by. Why should refuse collection be any different? After all, capital equipment, fuel, labor, and everything else costs more now than it did 30 years ago, when the contract was first awarded.
You didn't vote for the TARE board? Of course not. We've never voted for city board members. Just imagine how low those turnouts would be - especially in a city where most residents don't bother to vote for their city councilor. The fact of life in the city is that these volunteer boards take on the thankless, tedious, complex tasks of actually running the city's operations, an approach that generally works quite well.
You like the service the way it is, so it should never change? That's hardly a realistic view. And since when are utility operations popularity contests? Most of us aren't experts in running a utility, so maybe it shouldn't be our call.
The current system isn't broke? You may not think so, but in fact it is. It's inequitable. It penalizes people who recycle and reduce trash volume. It doesn't take into account rising costs. It's inefficient and it's bad for the environment.
Odors and insects? Cluttered neighborhoods? If trash bags are sealed tightly - tied-up smaller bags within the larger bags works best - and the cart lid is snapped down, odors and insects won't be a problem. And is it too much to ask to wheel the cart back up to your house once a week? Folks in the northwest part of town don't seem to mind that little chore. Maybe neighbors could lend a hand to the weak and infirm if they need help.
It's a given that some changes are in store. In time, I'll bet, most Tulsans will adjust and maybe even come to enjoy the challenge of recycling and helping the environment. Recycling gives you a good feeling about doing something for the planet - and it can cut your trash volume in half!
Change can be difficult, but sometimes it's not as difficult as anticipated. Look at it as a healthy challenge that will help make our community a better place.
It may take some getting used to, but at least you all don't have to worry about snakes in your vacuum cleaners.
Original Print Headline: Things change
Janet Pearson 918-581-8328