Recent news from Fiscal Court sharpened the contrast between solid-waste policies in the city and the county. Monthly fees for garbage collection have produced endless political turmoil over the past three years in the city of Frankfort while Franklin County government continues to provide residents “free” pickup funded by general taxation.
The previous City Commission enacted a $5 monthly garbage fee to help close a budgetary gap and promptly inflamed a hornets’ nest. People accustomed to having their trash and garbage collected without any charge other than taxes were incensed. Two incumbents who’d voted for the new plan lost in the next election. A new three-member majority on the commission then responded by instituting “pay-as-you-throw” collection, which some residents loved and others hated. The city bought and issued new trash carts in three different sizes, small, medium and large, with larger sizes costing more per month to use. Those able to manage with the smallest get free service. Medium carts come at $4, still lower than the original fee, and large ones are $12 a month. Supporters hope this system will save the city money on waste disposal by encouraging more recycling and less trash and garbage going to the landfill.
The county also wants to stimulate more recycling, but it’s using less aggressive methods. Under a new five-year, $7.18 million contract with Central Kentucky Landfill and Legacy Carting, each household in Fiscal Court’s jurisdiction will get two 95-gallon carts, each about the same size that costs $12 a month in the city. One is for conventional disposal and the other for recycling. Neither carries a monthly fee at this point, and the county’s cost of service actually is going down. The previous waste and recycling contract, with Republic Services, cost $13.01 per household each month – slightly more than city residents pay for the biggest available cart. Last week’s winning bid was $12.92 a month.
For now at least, county residents pay nothing other than the usual taxes. But Solid Waste Director Greg Butler warned that this state of affairs might not last forever – he said Franklin is the only county in the region not charging a monthly fee. Whether this record can be maintained after the new five-year contract runs its course may depend in part on how well county residents respond to the latest opportunity for expanded recycling. Like the city, the county hopes more will send reusable waste to the recycling center instead of the landfill, resulting in lower costs for the government and, ultimately, citizens.
County residents should rise to this challenge and show they have the good sense to do the right thing without having their arms twisted by local politicians. The city commissioners who adopted pay-as-you-throw collection were right about the benefits of recycling. Now it’s up to patrons of the county waste program to show the city officials were off the mark in underestimating the public’s willingness to do the right thing without a regulatory nudge from Big Brother.
Over the next five years, Franklin Countians should strive to demonstrate that they can recycle just as much, if not more, than their city neighbors who get a nasty slap on the wrist when they fail to follow City Hall’s demands.
Butler said he wants to emphasize the positives of the county system in hopes taxpayers recognize recycling is good for the individual as well as the community at large. We hope and believe most of them are smart enough to do just that.