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Staff: Skokie yard waste plan won’t work here

Evanston’s public works director says cutbacks Skokie has made to yard waste collections wouldn’t work here.

In a memo to aldermen, Suzette Robinson says Skokie — which now requires residents to call to schedule yard waste pickups and refuses to collect grass clippings — still has to devote all its sanitation crews one day a week to making the yard waste pickups.

An Evanston yard waste cart.

She says the village is collecting only half the yard waste it did previously and the material now often sits on the curb for weeks before being collected.

Robinson says Evanston generates more than twice as much yard waste as Skokie and says limiting collections would create litter problems and require hiring additional staff to manage.

Aldermen asked Robinson to look into the Skokie approach two weeks ago when they were first asked to approve a $476,370 a year, five-year contract with Groot Industries to run Evanston’s yard waste program.

They also asked her to explore cutting the term of the contract with Groot to two years, so the city would have more flexibility to possibly cut back on the yard waste program in the future.

Robinson said that Groot would be willing to shorten the contract term — but if it did, it would only be willing to pay $100,000 for six used city garbage trucks it was to purchase as part of the contract, compared to $213,000 under a five-year deal.

Groot said that’s because it would have less time to recover the capital cost of buying the used trucks during the shorter contract period. Robinson said the price Groot is offering for the trucks is considerably more than the city could expect to get for them at auction.

The city this spring started charging $1.75 each for stickers required to be placed on yard waste bags and, as an alternative to the stickers, encouraged residents to buy 95-gallon yard waste containers from the city.

City has proposed contracting out the yard waste pickup as part of a larger revamping of its sanitation service. Aldermen approved two garbage hauling contracts two weeks ago and are scheduled to again take up the yard waste contract Monday night. Under the plan, the remaining city sanitation crews would run recycling routes rather than the garbage routes and yard waste routes they cover now. The city has gradually been shrinking the number of sanitation workers by attrition.

Robinson has said that the yard waste program results in the highest level of workers compensation claims for the city — because workers have to lift the yard waste bags into garbage trucks by hand, while mechanical lifts are used for yard waste, recycling and garbage carts.

Approval of the yard waste contract will again be on the City Council agenda Monday night.

Update 10:48 a.m., 10/12/10: City Council members, apparently satisfied with the staff’s explanation, approved the contract with Groot at their Monday night meeting

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