On the heels of a recent fee increase that left the door open for additional modifications to local services, the city of Upper Arlington has begun a survey about trash collection.

On the heels of a recent fee increase that left the door open for additional modifications to local services, the city of Upper Arlington has begun a survey about trash collection.

In December, Upper Arlington City Council acted on a recommendation from city administrators to raise residents' annual trash fee from $40 to $64. The move was needed, city leaders said, because in recent years, Upper Arlington's general fund has had to subsidize the trash program in order to pay for the city's contract with collectors.

In 2015, according to the Upper Arlington Finance Division, the subsidy was expected to be $239,540, and City Manager Ted Staton, Finance Director Cathe Armstrong and various council members said a closer look at the overall trash pick-up program was needed to ensure it pays for itself in the future.

The city launched a "Solid Waste Service Delivery Survey" this month that will continue through April 15. It can be completed online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/uatrash.

Hard copies of the survey can be obtained by calling the City Manager's Office at 614-583-5040, or by stopping by the office at 3600 Tremont Road or the Upper Arlington Senior Center, 1945 Ridgeview Road.

Staton and Assistant City Manager Dan Ralley said the survey will look at the usefulness of the city's trash-sticker program, as well as how well local users are complying with recycling rules. It also will look at whether uniform collection containers are warranted in order for residents to cut down on litter.

"While the original intention behind the solid waste sticker program was to reduce what ends up at the landfill, recent trends have us questioning the program's effectiveness," Staton said in a recent City Manager's blog. "We have observed that the sale of solid-waste stickers has not kept pace with the volume of solid waste taken to the landfill, which indicates that stickers are not being properly used or collected."

Staton said collection crews have noticed more instances of trash being mixed with recycling.

"The sale of solid waste stickers helps cover the expenses of providing both solid waste and recycling services to the community," Ralley said. "When trash is co-mingled with recycling, no sticker is used and not only are these items not recycled, but residents are not paying for the disposal of solid waste in proportion to their true use in a 'pay as you throw' approach for trash collection.

"These items ultimately end up at the landfill, with the costs for dumping passed on to the city without any income offsetting that cost," he said. "The city's cost for the acceptance of recyclable items at Rumpke increased $20 per ton in 2016, partially as a result of these added disposal expenses."

Ralley said "improper disposal" of items without stickers adds to the shortfall between the trash program's income and costs, an issue that led some on council to call for stricter enforcement measures last December.

As of March 10, the city already had received about 1,300 responses to the survey. Ralley said the input will help guide decisions for potential changes.

He added, however, that "any decision will incorporate further public and council input," and said it was "unlikely that any substantive changes to the system would occur prior to April 2017, when the city can exercise its last option year under a contract with Republic or go out for public bid."

Council President Debbie Johnson said council wants a system in which the city provides "superior service" to residents. She said the city hopes to engage the community to "find an efficient and cost-effective solid waste system and gauge opinions on the current (system), as well as other options for delivery."

"This contract can be -- but has not yet been -- renewed for another year until April 2018," Johnson said. "The survey is the beginning of the community input and the residents can expect more engagement during this process.

"I do expect a report on the current survey to come to council before our summer break in July."

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