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'Tough Decisions' Ahead For Bloomington's Bulk Waste Pickups, Leaf Collection

public works crews collecting bulk waste
WGLT file photo
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The Bloomington City Council could soon consider a recommendation from city staff to eliminate the twice-a-year free bulk waste pickups. That’s one of several cost-cutting moves that city staff has studied in hopes of closing a $1.2 million deficit in its Solid Waste fund.

Bloomington residents cleaning out from last weekend’s storms will get an extra free curbside bulk waste pickup, starting July 6. But they shouldn’t get used to it.

The Bloomington City Council could soon consider a recommendation from city staff to eliminate the twice-a-year free bulk waste pickups. That’s one of several cost-cutting moves that city staff has studied in hopes of closing a $1.2 million deficit in its Solid Waste fund.

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Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason.

The goal, said City Manager Tim Gleason, was to find ways to continue providing comparable Solid Waste services with no cost increase.

“It’s my responsibility to frame up what the problem is. It’s unfortunate that this new council is going to have to make some tough decisions. But no decisions have been made,” Gleason said.

The council was last briefed on the recommendations at its non-voting Committee of the Whole meeting June 21. It’s unclear when an actual vote on changes might happen.

Other changes recommended by city staff include:

  • Instead of every two weeks, bulk and brush pickup would be monthly.
  • Bulk waste would cost $50 per bucket (about 2.5 cubic yards), instead of $25.
  • Limits on use of the Citizen Convenience Center, in part to drive away contractor waste. The CCC would accept two free allowable vehicles (up to one bucket per vehicle per month) for bulk. It would require proof of a city homeowner permit to drop off remodeling debris.

Another proposed change would ask Bloomington residents to put their leaves in biodegradable bags before the city retrieves them. Residents can now just rake or blow them to the curb, and city crews come by and vacuum them up. The bagged-leaf approach would cut down on manpower.

That change, if enacted, could also have positive environmental impacts, Gleason said. Leaves that drift away from the curb can block drainage systems. There was some evidence of that happening during last weekend’s heavy rains.

“It’s not entirely the fault of debris being in the roadway, but it does impact the amount of water that can be taken into the storm drains,” Gleason said.

The city might also pair this change with more promotion of composting and mulching as an alternative to curbside collection, he said.

Some parts of Bloomington are older than others, and they’re more likely to have mature trees that shed more leaves.

WGLT asked Gleason whether the city would consider establishing different leaf rules for different wards. Gleason said he understands that one size doesn’t always fit all, but he’s also hesitant to propose a policy that pits council members against each other.

“But if that’s ultimately the direction the council gives me, and they accept that potential fallout, then that’s what we’ll do as city staff,” Gleason said.

The Town of Normal offers curbside leaf vacuum collection (no bags needed) for several weeks each fall. At other times they need to be bagged up or put into a landscape waste container.

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