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Oak Ridge North tweaks recycling plan in effort to reduce rate hike

July 24, 2018

The Oak Ridge North City Council on Monday voted to eliminate glass products from its recycling plan with Waste Management in an effort to avoid a rate hike for recycling services.

Terry Woodson, a public sector solutions manager for Waste Management, presented a revised formula of the rate increase, the results of a contamination audit and three options for reducing the $0.96 rate increase presented to council at their July 9 meeting.

“If we stop taking glass at your level, we can reduce that rate,” Woodson said. “We know it may not always be 100 percent gone, but even when the city of Houston chose to do that two years ago, (their contamination) dropped below 10 percent, bringing huge savings.”

Woodson told the council that the three options devised by Waste Management — eliminating glass from the municipal recycling plan, the elimination of plastic bags, polystyrene and needles, or canceling the program — all had the potential to lower the rate.

Under the adopted plan, Oak Ridge North’s per residential unit per month rate will rise by 89 cents to a total of $13.49 per month per residential unit. The rate hike is effective Oct. 1. The rate increase applies to the city’s contract with the company, and will not raise rates for residents.

Following Mayor Jim Kuykendall’s request for a contamination audit to determine what percentage of Oak Ridge North’s collected recycling was in fact recyclable at the previous meeting, Woodson reported that of the 198 pounds sorted, 25 percent was contaminated and ineligible for recycling.

“You could get the rate under 20 percent if you get rid of the glass,” Woodson said. “(Oak Ridge North) is actually really good in comparison (to other cities).”

Although there is a market for pristine, uncontaminated recycled goods, Woodson said, glass has negative value to Waste Management, which pays to have it processed at an external facility.

The elimination of glass collection from the city’s recycling program means it will no longer be gathered curbside with other household recyclables, Woodson said, but Waste Management’s facility in The Woodlands will continue to collect cleaned and rinsed glass containers for processing.

“Recycling is more popular today than ever before,” Woodson said. “Being able to recycle will make a difference for our grandchildren — if we can get past this contamination problem and get everybody on the new plan.”

The council agreed to work with Waste Management on a series of publicity materials, including fliers, statement stuffers and stickers to be placed on recycling bins, to inform residents of the upcoming changes to the program.

Woodson told the council that the process to fully engage the community and completely eliminate glass from Oak Ridge North’s recycling bins could take up to six months.

“We have a long way to go,” Woodson said. “But the only way to go is up.”

Service awards

To kick off Monday’s meeting, Kuykendall presented four service awards to employees reaching a milestone anniversary at the city.

Lt. Tom Libby and Sgt. Doug Barry of the Oak Ridge North Police Department were recognized for 25 years at the city and Director of Economic Development Heather Neeley and Public Works Director Joe Sherwin have been at the city for five years.

“I picked the right guy,” said Oak Ridge North Chief of Police Andrew Walters of Barry. “It’s a testament to the city that they’ve been here this long.”

Kuykendall praised Neeley’s rise from city secretary to director of economic development.

“One of the great things (outgoing city manager Vicky Rudy) is leaving here is a legacy of mentoring a lot of young women,” Kuykendall said of Neeley’s close working relationship with Rudy. “And that’s a phenomenal thing.”

Nuisance properties

The City Council also approved two ordinances to hold public hearings for properties on Blueberry Hill Drive and Paula Lane before they are officially declared substandard buildings.

“Both of these properties are repeat offenders,” City Attorney Chris Nichols said.

City Secretary Elizabeth Harrell said the house at 27202 Blueberry Hill Drive has sat vacant for two years, and the owners have been served more than a dozen notices for cleanup since March 2014.

According to the staff report presented to the council, the property is in violation of two ordinances in the city code and is clogged with dead trees, high weeds and parts of the property holds stagnant water.

Members of the council have met several times with the home’s owner, Harrell said, and improvements were promised but not followed up on.

Staff members last visited the home on July 2 and determined that no effort had been made by the owners to bring the property up to code.

The property at 27270 Paula Lane has “been in distress for a couple (of) years,” according to the staff report, and staff members have tried to reach the owners both physically and over the telephone to no avail.

If a resolution is not reached from the public hearings, the abatement process will continue, Harrell.

Road improvements

The next step in planning for the Woodlands Parkway and Robinson Road overpass was set Monday as the council approved an Interlocal Development Agreement with Montgomery County, the city’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone and the city’s Development Authority in their executive session.

The plans for the Woodlands Parkway and Interstate 45 overpass and Robinson Road and Patsy Lane intersection agreement were previously approved by the three agencies.

Miscellaneous notes

After recommendation by Kuykendall, the council unanimously approved John Planchard to continue as chairman on the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone.

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