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State College Council Talks Trash Again; Proposal Would Ease Rate Increases, Data Show

on October 18, 2011 11:03 AM

With no changes to the status quo, State College borough refuse-collection rates will probably need to climb 6.75 percent in 2014 and 12.05 percent in 2015, according to borough data released Monday.

But the borough could well go without any rate increases until 2017 if the Borough Council adopts an overhauled collection system, the same data show.

At that point, customers would likely see a rate increase of 13.23 percent, according to the report.

Prepared by the borough administration, the analysis was shared with council members at their Monday meeting.

Council members remained divided, however, over the prospect of revamping refuse collection. While Theresa Lafer, who had been skeptical, said she has become more comfortable with the idea, her colleagues Tom Daubert, Silvi Lawrence and Jim Rosenberger aired ongoing reservations.

"I feel like we're trying to get a Cadillac for our garbage," Lawrence said at one point. She said she's not comfortable with the breadth and expense of the proposal.

Daubert, meanwhile, said he still regards the proposal as "a downgrade in service" and doesn't think he can be convinced otherwise. He fears the change would make it more difficult for residents to leave unlimited amounts of garbage curbside at will, he has said.

But the garbage-collection proposal, outlined in detail in prior news reports, would reduce labor expenses, fuel consumption and landfill tipping fees, public-works Director Mark Whitfield has said.

Developed in concert with the council's own goal to reduce landfill-bound waste, the plan would require an upfront investment of about $600,000 from the borough. Grant money may offset some of that expense. Either way, the change would save the borough about $109,000 a year through lighter fuel, labor and tipping bills, Whitfield has said.

Under the plan, each borough refuse-collection customer would receive two borough-issued containers -- one for organic-waste disposal, including kitchen scraps, the other for everything else. Containers, paid for by the borough, would be available in 35-, 64- and 90-gallon sizes. (Recyclables would continue to be collected via the standard Centre County Solid Waste Authority bins.)

Low-volume customers would receive a projected 9-percent discount on their collection bills. Generally, customers would be expected to leave curbside their collected refuse only in borough-issued containers, though very occasional exceptions may be permitted, administrators have said. (Curbside leaf and brush collection would be unchanged -- still handled without containers necessary.)

The use of the new containers would be vital to the new collection process, which would rely on automated, natural-gas-powered trucks. They would quicken the collection process and burn less fuel than the current vehicles, according to the administration.

Meanwhile, the concurrent addition of borough-wide organics-waste collection would expand a pilot organics program launched in January 2010. About 550 households have participated in that pilot.

Of 120 participating households that responded to a survey, 87 percent think organics collection should be spread borough-wide, Whitfield said.

Lafer and fellow council members Peter Morris and Don Hahn have voiced general support for the collection-overhaul effort. It remains unclear, though, when the council may take formal action on the proposal.

The matter may return to the council agenda as soon as a November work session on the 2012 budget. If approved soon enough, the changes could be incorporated as part of the next budget cycle.

In other news at the Monday meeting:

  • Council formally agreed to delay consideration of an East Beaver Avenue rezoning proposal. The concept would rezone the south side of East Beaver Avenue from about Locust Lane to Garner Street, tagging it with a residential-office-overlay designation. Most immediately, the change would enable development of a new student-apartment building at 254 E. Beaver Ave., where Canyon Pizza is based. Before making any decisions on that rezoning, though, the council wants the borough Planning Commission to finish reviews of possible changes in setback, parking and environmental guidelines. Those reviews may not be complete until early 2012, borough Manager Tom Fountaine said.
  • Council hosted a public hearing on the proposed expansion of the Downtown State College Improvement District geographic area, as well as a tax increase there. No one spoke during the hearing. Details of the proposal are in this earlier report.
  • An anticipated discussion over a proposed -- and temporary -- road closure at Hetzel Street was pulled from the meeting agenda at the request of the contractor. The matter may return to council later, according to the borough.
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