Trash board gets push-back from city councilors
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Friday, February 22, 2013
2/22/13 at 3:32 AM
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City councilors pushed back Thursday against the trash board's rejection of their requests to change an ordinance that would formalize the city's new trash system.
One or more councilors asked the board last week to remove requirements for customers to bag their trash and limit the proportion of yard waste in their trash carts to 50 percent. Councilors also objected to a provision allowing the trash system's rules to be changed without their approval.
The trash board declined those requests during a nonvoting meeting Tuesday. City Solid Waste Manager Eric Lee told councilors at a committee meeting Thursday that he would convey their response to the trash board at its meeting next week and would return to the council with the board's response.
The trash board "can talk about whatever they want at their meetings," City Councilor G.T. Bynum said. "They don't write the ordinances. The City Council writes the ordinances."
The new ordinance, drafted by the trash board, would replace one that describes the trash system that was in effect before Oct. 1. It outlines the new system's rate structures, rules and garbage definitions.
The ordinance would take effect after formal approval by the council and the mayor.
The trash board, formally known as the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy, agreed to a series of minor changes requested by the council last week but argued that permitting unbagged trash would expose residents to health risks. It also said the limit for yard waste in carts is needed to ensure that customers keep it separate so that it can be taken to a facility that turns it into mulch.
A representative of the city's Legal Department told the board that giving the council authority over the trash system's rules would violate the City Charter, which delegates that power to the mayor.
However, Lee told the council Thursday that the city's administration would have the authority to change the rules only for the hauler, not for residents. Councilor Phil Lakin said he is still uncomfortable with that and would like to see a revision limiting the number of rules that can be changed.
Meanwhile, numerous councilors said the yard-waste limit was not among the rules advertised when the new system took effect.
"The original commitment was you could put anything in that trash container that you wanted," Councilor Skip Steele said. "Now they're wanting to modify what they originally promised."
Also opposing the restriction were Councilors Jeannie Cue, Arianna Moore, Lakin and Bynum, who added that he would refuse to support the ordinance if the limit remains.
"To rob the citizens - the rate payers - of 50 percent of their cart load because we want to encourage green waste usage is not right," Bynum said.
Yard waste not placed in carts can be discarded in bundles or bags affixed with a 50-cent green waste sticker. Several councilors said they thought this option was intended for any excess yard waste, but Councilor Blake Ewing said he understood that this was to be the primary method for yard waste disposal.
"It was always clear to me that green waste was to be collected one way and that solid waste was to be collected a different way," he said, arguing that too much green waste might disrupt operations at the city's trash-to-energy incinerator.
Steele and Jack Henderson, the only councilors who have openly opposed the requirement to bag everything the ordinance defines as "garbage," reiterated their positions Thursday.
Steele said he believes that only food and bodily waste should be bagged. Henderson said the definition of garbage - "organic matter" and anything "likely to fall or fly out of a cart" when being emptied - is another confusing provision in a confusing ordinance.
Original Print Headline: Council fights trash board on ordinance
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486