Evanston’s Sanitation Superintendent says her department has managed to dramatically cut the cost of garbage pickup in the city this year while increasing the number of households served.

Suzette Eggleston told the Administration and Public Works Committee last week that residential garbage collection, which cost $1.53 million last year, is expected to cost $1.24 million during the current fiscal year.

And that includes adding pickups at about 350 owner-occupied five- and six-unit buildings that previously were served by private haulers.

Eggleston says the change, approved by the City Council last winter, reduced the monthly cost per household of garbage pickups from $8.81 to $6.95.

However, she concedes, the lower cost is still about $0.60 more than the average fee charged by private contractors in nearby suburbs, based on figures from the Solid Waste Authority of Northern Cook County.

Last spring she had recommended that the city move to what’s called a managed competition process for the 2009-10 budget year, in which city sanitation workers would enter a competitive bidding process with private haulers for the garbage routes.

But she now says she wants to put that plan on hold for further study and continue to use the cost-comparison process in house to try to further reduce the unit’s spending.

She said the current system does give the city the flexibility to move employees around to different tasks as needs vary over the course of the year, an advantage that would be lost if the work was contracted out.

She added that city union representatives “are not very comfortable” discussing a program that could eliminate workers’ jobs.

She said the sanitation department has also saved about $100,000 this year by changing the seasonal neighborhood cleanup program. The city had been renting commercial dumpsters and placing them in the streets, where they were often filled up by contractors before residents could get to them. This year the city switched to having special bulk trash pickups from alleys using city crews.

And she said restructuring the yard waste collection program for next year should save another $235,000.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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