A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Council news: Here’s what may affect you

Written October 14th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

There had better not be any unrecyclable trash or plastic bags in there.

The big news out of Wednesday’s Albany City Council meeting, in terms of its effect on residents? Not the verbal blast against Councilman Rich Kellum but the coming crackdown on people who put unrecyclable trash in their recycling carts.

The attack on Kellum took the form of a long letter apparently signed by 60-some people and read to the council under “business from the public” by Madeline MacGregor, a North Albany artist. It called on Kellum to resign,  apologize, or be censured by the council for remarks he made in 2017 and more recently in debates involving the city’s Human Relations Commission.

Never mind that Kellum, elected from Ward 3 (east and southeast Albany), is near the end of his second four-year term and is not on the ballot for a third. And as Mayor Sharon Konopa had to explain to another speaker who was not on camera during the virtual session, the council has no power to discipline or censure its members. (See the comment and correction below.)

“We’re not each other’s boss,” she said. “The voters are our boss.”

No, what is likely to have greater effect on Albany households is what Republic Services told the council.

First, there will be no rate increase for trash pickup in 2021. The rates will stay the same as this year.

Also, Republic has been hit with an increase in nonrecyclable trash in its recycling bins. So, it will start warning people if they are caught putting ordinary refuse into the recycling, and then slapping them with a $15 “contamination fee” every time they are caught again.

How would they get caught? Julie Jackson, Republic’s local municipal relations manager, explained in a letter to the council: “The fee would be charged when the driver sees plastic bags in either recycling or yard debris carts on the hopper camera inside the truck.”

Cameras inside garbage trucks, keeping an eye on what we discard — who knew?

“Customer account would be noted with a warning letter sent on the first offense,” Republic said. “The fee would be assessed only if contamination occurs again.”

What about illicit stuff put in your carts by someone else? No word on how Republic would investigate that.

One more innovation from Republic: In Albany it has offered trash service with 32- or 90-gallon carts. It will now offer 65-gallon carts as well, priced between the other two. So that will be a helpful option for people whose trash production tops 32 gallons a week but is not enough the warrant the giant bins.

So maybe on trash day along Albany streets, we’ll soon see fewer of those overflowing carts. (hh)

17 responses to “Council news: Here’s what may affect you”

  1. Jerred Taylor says:

    The comment about the council not having the power to censure is not correct. While they cannot remove a member from office, the council can in fact move to censure a member, a public acknowledgement from the body that behavior or actions of a fellow member are unacceptable. As one example, Bend city councilor Nathan Bodie was censured for an array of misconduct.

  2. William Ayers says:

    What did Rich do to cause such a flap? A reference or a link please.

  3. Anon says:

    ….and a council censure would accomplish what? I hope throwing political rocks at a guy as he is on his way out the door is not the best use of the councils time.

    • hj.anony1 says:

      They have plenty of time to throw “political rocks”. Plenty of time…

      Like the time wasted on other gambits. Think of the chattering on about a new business registry fees or the ridiculous gun sanctuary status discussion. Oh and the on-and-on square footage bickering of ADUs.

      A censure of the current/exited bully would send a message to all future bullies.
      No doubt there will be more.

  4. Brad says:

    I live in an apartment building with 2 other families who put all kinds of weird stuff into the recycle bin. I can’t wait to see how our landlord decides to handle that.

  5. James Engel says:

    Why is the recycling thing soooo hard to do for some morons?? Of course they should be charged an extra fee for being so lax. On my own block most every week I see recycling cans with garbage in them. Too bad the driver doesn’t have the time to dump the container on the morons doorstep!

  6. Charyse says:

    I think a censure from the rest of the council, while doing nothing for Kellum, would at least acknowledge to the public that whether or not they agree with Kellum’s beliefs, his behavior is inappropriate for a representative of Albany.

  7. Susan says:

    Ha, now I understand why the Republic Services drives never looks out the window to wave when I am in my yard. He or she is too busy watching the hopper camera!

  8. Don Greiner says:

    I salute Republic’s effort to charge the offender rather than all of Albany citizens for misuse of recycling carts. I would like to see more action.
    Things have changed significantly in the recycling field since the City and Republic Services signed the current agreement. It is time to review that agreement to determine if there are things that would be better for Albany’s citizens and not threaten the economic viability of Republic.
    The last we heard from Republic was when they requested from the City, and it was agreed they needed a rate increase to pay for sorting recycled material. Following the rate increase, Republic issued new guidelines for what could go into the recycling bin. I questioned why we didn’t get those guidelines before the rate increase, giving us users a chance to clean up our act before they started charging us more.
    A side note: I wrote emails at that time to all City Council members and copied the Mayor outlining why they should reject the request from Republic. Dick Kellum was the only councilor to respond to me. He voted against the raise. Mayor Konopa also responded. I appreciated both of their comments and acknowledgment.
    In my opinion the majority of Albany does not need weekly pickup service for a 90 gallon recycling cart that is only used for approved plastic and paper. Most of us don’t generate that much. As an early morning walker I notice that less than 50 % of the homes have a recycle cart out on pickup day. Personally we only need to have ours emptied every three weeks. Yet the truck comes every week. Cutting that to every other week makes financial sense to me. Those who have more need can pay for extra carts, like is done for yard waste.
    On alternate weeks Republic sends a truck around to pick up glass and oil. On my early morning walks the average is 6-8 bins out per 100 houses. That seems to be a lot of fossil fuel consumption for that small amount of recycling. Perhaps it’s time to cancel that.
    In summary, I would be better served to have two Republic trucks, rather than three, stop by on pickup day. It would be great to pay only 2/3 of what I pay now.

    • Wiley says:

      Obviously you aren’t forced to shop online much. Cardboard and various recyclable materials are abundant in these Pandemic times. Our recycle bin is often, OFTEN, filled to the top even after a lot of mashing down. So much for your shooting from the hip.

  9. thomas cordier says:

    I meet lots of people.
    One elderly lady living on HWY 20 in Albany is not happy about costs of services.
    Under the slogan “only buy what you need” she pays the $44/mo as if she uses garbage+lawn+recycle+glass services.
    She only uses one container for garbage pick-up so only one truck per week enters her driveway off HWY 20.
    Republic knows that is all she wants and does not send 3 trucks per week into he narrow driveway.
    Your contract states $44./wk for garbage removal and states all the other services is “free”.
    I want your CONTRACT with Republic to be CHANGED so customers can chose what level of costs they want with a base rate to collect only garbage and the other services be optional at additional costs.
    Please advise. This request was sent to every member of the Council. Alex is the only one who contacted me. I want some action on this

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Council will never reduce rates for any utility when they get a 5% “franchise fee” from YOUR bill. Every $1 they raise it, they get $.05.

      Do they still have that extra 5% hidden in our electric bills?

      Remember a few years back when Republic got an extra raise when fuel costs went up? You never saw them ask for a reduction when fuel prices went back down.

  10. Rick says:

    I don’t want your contract changed as I understand the fee encourages community members to use the recycle and yard containers as they are intended. Neighbors have the opportunity to share refuse containers and cut their cost of services.

  11. Jim says:

    Another interesting place to find people NOT putting items in the correct dumpster is the transfer/recycling center. Lots of garbage and plastic placed where ever they want.
    I have even watched 2 women place siding in recycling. Not cool. Remember that Styrofoam is not recyclable for all intensive purposes. Stop using it!

  12. sonamata says:

    I doubt there’s been an “increase in nonrecyclable trash in its recycling bins.” The places where Western countries have historically offloaded their garbage (like China and India) have recently put tighter restrictions on what they’ll accept. To maintain a profit on their recycling programs, companies like Republic Services have to do more rigorous quality control. There’s a good article about this in the Dec. 2019 Wall Street Journal titled “Recycling Rethink: What to Do With Trash Now That China Won’t Take It.”


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