Solid waste contract raises stink in Eastpointe

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 28, 2013

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EASTPOINTE — An agenda item bidding out a five-year solid waste and recycling contract stirred a debate among council that ended with a 3-2 vote for a Rizzo Services package at the May 22 regular meeting in Eastpointe.

Councilman Phil Guastella and Councilwoman Wendy Richardson cast the dissenting votes with concerns about the cost of the plan, as well as, for Richardson, the environmental impact.

The contract, which comes at a cost savings to residents, is less costly than the current contract but more expensive than some of the other options offered by Rizzo. The cost savings for residents adds up to about $12 a year. The current refuse pickup price, which is tacked onto water bills, is $11.71 per month. The price under the new contract is $10.87 per month.

Under the new contract, all Eastpointe residents will be provided a 96-gallon wheeled tote for solid waste and a 64-gallon wheeled tote for recyclables; however, Rizzo will still be required to pick up trash left out in other containers. The cost of the five-year contract is approximately $6.7 million.

The other options offered by Rizzo were approximately $6.1 million — an option that did not include totes — and $6.6 million, and Guastella couldn’t justify spending the extra money at a time when the city revenues are so low.

“My concern is this: If we have a lot of residents that are going to opt out of using the (tote), then we are still paying the same rate and that’s a difference of … just under $650,000 for that five years. That’s about $130,000 a year, and it’s a situation where people just may choose not to use these cans, and I think that is an awful lot of money to pay if people aren’t going to use these cans,” Guastella said. “I’m just looking to maximize on our savings for our residents. That’s a $650,000 bullet you’re willing to bite.”

However, the overall cost for residents of the more expensive package is still less than what residents are paying now.

“The difference in the options is the cheapest option by Rizzo was slightly less than 70 cents less per month from the already reduced price (of the $6.7 million option) and that difference can be made up in the reduced cost of code enforcement and administrative time (to fight rats and trash), and more importantly the process has an immediate on-street impact, versus the longer enforcement process that still allows poor conditions to exist,” said City Manager Steve Duchane.

Mayor Pro Tem Bill Sweeney’s knowledge of rodent control led him to vote for the dual-tote contract with Rizzo.

“My company services the Hamtramck housing project over there off Caniff, and in speaking to one of the maintenance supervisors over there, he said that when they switched over to carts, their rodent issue dropped dramatically,” Sweeney said, before sharing concerns about the difficulty seniors might have with the large totes.

It was a difficult decision for Richardson, who loved the idea of the larger recycling totes but didn’t agree with the cost and just couldn’t stomach the environmental implications of Eastpointe’s trash being sent for incineration at Detroit Renewable Power.

During the meeting, she spoke about how, as a girl growing up in Detroit, she saw firsthand the effects of the incinerator on nearby neighborhoods.

“My father lived in Detroit his whole life, and I grew up in Detroit, and if you’ve ever lived in Detroit, you know the problem with the air,” Richardson said. “I used to think, ‘Who are those people that allow this to happen to us?’ You know we would never tolerate (an incinerator) in the suburbs. If a compost pile gets a little smelly, that gets shut down, but that doesn’t happen in Detroit. And now we are a part of it. It’s not only the problems with the air or the problems with the children with asthma at an astronomical rate in the area around the incinerator, but we should have a selfish reason for not wanting to incinerate in Detroit — the air doesn’t stop at the Detroit border, the water doesn’t stop at the Detroit border; it continues on.”

Prior to the discussion, during the first public hearing, Ahmina Maxey, an organizer from Zero Waste Detroit, urged council to go with a contractor that didn’t take its trash to an incinerator. She cited studies and data on the environmental implications of incinerating and land filling.

“I’m hoping that the EPA and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality continue in their struggles and the incinerator is shut down for good, and then we won’t have to worry about it. But for now, we do,” Richardson said.

Duchane said he doesn’t lean one way or another on the incinerator issue but wanted to remind residents that, “between SEMCOG and DEQ, the incinerator is legally licensed and operating” and that all vendors must follow the law and conform to all statutes and requirements.

At the end of the discussion, council wasn’t swayed, and after a failed motion by Guastella to go with the cheapest option offered by Rizzo, a motion by Sweeney led to approval of the dual-tote contract with Rizzo.

Residents present at the meeting agreed with council’s decision.

“I’ve lived here now almost 43 years, and the first time I’ve ever saw a rat was two weeks ago. It was squished on the side street where I live,” said resident Walter Jakubiak. “Within a week, a second one was squashed behind me at my neighbor’s house. These were not small rats. These were the kind of rats that walk down the street and say, ‘Here kitty, kitty,’ and I really would like to see something that would reduce the rat population.

“I don’t know why we are seeing them all of a sudden; my neighbors, from what I can see, are very neat, but if this is what we are having to deal with, then God bless those kids. I have a couple next door to me with two young kids — one of them is old enough to play in the back, and the last thing I want to see is one of them get bit, and if this helps, I’m all for it.”

Specific information on disbursement of the garbage and recycle totes was not available at press time. For more information on the new contract, call the city at (586) 445-3661.

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