During Monday night's pre-council meeting, the Sedalia City Council was questioned by Ward Four concerned citizen Doug Sokoloski about the city's process involved in deciding to eliminate the second day of weekly trash pick-up and increasing the monthly fee by $2 starting Oct. 1.

Sokoloski was allowed to voice his opinion to an attentive Council, saying that he didn't necessarily disagree with the final decision to raise fees and reduce service, but rather the timing of the decision, considering that only half of the responses from a city survey had been received before a decision was made at the July 18 Council meeting.

“You made a decision without all of the tools used,” he told Council members, all of whom were present except First Ward Councilwoman Jo Lynn Turley. The survey was not sent out (in the mail) until one day after the decision was made,” he said, referring to surveys being mailed out along with with residents' July water bills. The online version of the annual citizen survey is available through Aug. 8, it was noted. That survey asked two specific questions about trash pick-ups, and required a yes or no answer:

*Sedalia has one of the lowest monthly fees for trash collection services in Missouri. To keep the rate as low as possible, would you be in favor of reducing trash pick-up to once-a-week?

*Recycling services do not routinely generate sufficient revenue to pay for the cost of the service. Knowing this, would you like to see Sedalia's recycling efforts continue?

Those were the last two questions in the 27-question survey.

According to City Administrator Gary Edwards, about 60 percent of the surveys received so far were in favor of the increase in fees and the reduction in service. He added that several major issues have to be decided in a short time by the City, including issues like the sewer situation and a new community center. “We want to spread those out,” he told Sokolowski.

But Sokolowski argued that Council didn't really care about the survey answers that were being submitted, and quoted the survey “We need your input.”

“But you didn't really want our input,” he said, adding that if this were a 12-step process, Council went directly from Step 6 to Step 12.

“I agree, we should have waited,” commented Third Ward Councilman Bob Cross, adding that the new system will incorporate curbside recycling and electronic waste pick-up.

Ward One Councilman Jeff Leeman agreed it was bad timing, but noted that the previous annual survey showed similar results. Also, there were timing issues regarding a contract with the providers of the service that needed to be decided in a timely fashion. And the survey is only one tool the Council uses to make their decisions.

Mayor Stephen Galliher also agreed it was bad timing and that we can all learn from the episode.

As for Ward Four Councilman Tollie Rowe, the fee increase had to be done. “My mind was made up,” he told Sokolowski.

The fee increase will go into effect Monday, Oct. 3. And twice weekly trash pick-up will be reduced to once a week.

Public Works Director Brenda Ardrey presented her case to the Council during work sessions that occurred earlier this summer. She argued that “we’re losing about a quarter of a million dollars a year and we’ve had no trucks replaced for four years,” she said.

“There is no vehicle replacement fund for this enterprise fund. Trucks need to be replaced. Our maintenance fees on a couple of trucks are costing as much as payment on a new truck. At some point, we would simply not be able to do twice a week collection because we’re not going to have enough vehicles to do it on the vehicle replacement side,” Ardrey stated at the time.

“The volume (of trash) that second time a week simply doesn’t warrant a second pickup,” Ardrey concluded.

According to Ardrey, four of the city’s trucks will be cleaned and made usable to collect recycling.

The City of Sedalia will also begin collecting electronic waste at the Materials Management Site on state Route U. She also said on July 18 that the new additional revenue will be used for a Sanitation Department vehicle replacement fund.

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