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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 1:00 am

Council nixes individual trash pickup

Members tout effort to find solution

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

In a 6-3 vote, the Fort Wayne City Council on Tuesday shot down a non-binding resolution encouraging the city to abandon citywide trash collection contracts in the future.

The resolution's goal was to promote free market trash collection service, in which home and business owners would individually arrange and pay for trash to be collected by independent haulers, rather than employing a single garbage collection contractor.

Sponsored by Councilmen Jason Arp, R-4th, and Paul Ensley, R-1st, the proposal called upon city officials to levy the fullest fines possible on Red River for missed garbage and recycling collections and set out a procedure for officials to follow in the event that Red River abandons its seven-year contract. 

Because the proposed resolution was non-binding, however, it would have been unenforceable even if approved. 

“I believe in free markets, I believe in the individuals who live in our city, that they will have the ability to handle this task the same way they handle buying shoes, buying groceries, putting gas in their car,” Arp said. “People manage to live their lives without the government dictating every aspect of it, and I think they'll figure out how to get the garbage collected as well.” 

The major sticking point for the council members who voted against the resolution was the component that requested the city refrain from entering into any future long-term garbage collection contracts. Arp and Ensley were joined by Councilman Michael Barranda, R-at large, in support of the proposal.

“I see too many potentials for untoward things to happen with this,” Councilman John Crawford, R-at large. 

Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, said he applauds Arp and Ensley for trying to find a solution to the problem, but the only aspect of the proposal he could support was the requirement that the city collect the full amount of fines as stipulated in the Red River contract. 

“For me, there's just too many pieces of the puzzle missing here, so I have to vote no,” Didier said. 

Barranda said the resolution was meant to encourage the city administration to have a discussion about alternative options if the current trash collection service fails. 

“I think that's what we've been saying all along ... that we need to start thinking outside of the box on how to fix some of these issues because we're really coming to the end of really poor service,” Barranda said.

Barranda stressed that “this is just a concept that says we think it would be wise for the city to consider putting together a plan, as opposed to just continuing with the monopoly service that we have.”

Councilman Tom Freistroffer, R-at large, commended Arp and Ensley for their efforts and added that the city administration needs to realize there are backup plans available to help fix the trash collection issues. However, Freistroffer said he couldn't support the measure because of the way it was written.

“I live in the inner city. (In) the inner city, with its alleys and its roadways, the way garbage is picked up is very much different than in Aboite Township,” Freistroffer said. “There are many phrases in this resolution that I just have a problem with, as far as terms are concerned and verbiage, but I'm not opposed to having a resolution such as this, because the administration needs to know that we've got solutions.”

Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, said he could not support a “throw it against the wall and see what sticks resolution.” 

Garbage removal is a basic city service, said Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd,. The fact that the council was even discussing ending citywide trash collection highlights the poor service provided by Red River and Mayor Tom Henry's office, he added. 

“The fact that many of the public and many of the council members believe that we are better off having no garbage service at all, rather than the poor quality garbage service we have and the poor administration of that contract is a true indictment of the administration and Red River, ...” Jehl said, adding that he agrees with 90% of the resolution. “I'd just rather us focus on getting the garbage picked up rather than ceasing to pick up garbage.” 

dgong@jg.net