Trash pickup

A city trash truck dumps a polycart while running a residential route. Beginning Monday, Lawton residents will have their trash collected only once a week.

It’s time.

Lawton residents start once-a-week trash collections Monday, eight months after the City Council directed a change in the decades-long practice of collecting refuse from Lawton neighborhoods twice a week. It’s a system that is common in other communities and one that previous councils have debated in numerous budget sessions for almost 30 years. The 2013 council actually voted to go to once-a-week collections and was less than a week from implementing that system when members changed their mind in the face of heavy residential opposition, restoring twice-a-week service.

Current council members have indicated they won’t change their minds and City of Lawton staff has spent months securing the new equipment — to include four new trash trucks and three new grapple arm trucks — that will allow solid waste collection crews to handle once-a-week pickups for residents and once-a-month bulk trash collection.

City Manager Michael Cleghorn has said the new system will save the City of Lawton money while increasing efficiency.

“Once per week has been coming for a very long time,” said Ward 8 Councilman Randy Warren, a member of a council study committee which analyzed the idea last year and recommended the change.

The guidelines for residential trash haven’t changed, meaning you get to dump only what fits into your polycart. But, that polycart now will be emptied only one a week.

The second part of the city’s new trash collection schedule is curbside bulk pickup, meaning that once a month, residents have the option of putting out debris that won’t fit into their polycarts. It’s a change from the two free bulk curbside pickups city solid waste crews had been providing, and council members said it was a good compromise for residents who are concerned once-a-week pickup won’t be enough.

City administrators said those bulk collections on Wednesday will actually mean a greater flow of trash from households into the city landfill, which will help with cleanup and beautification efforts.

“Before, residents were allowed two free bulk pickups per year. Beginning April 12, they will receive 12,” said Tiffany Vrska, community relations director for the City of Lawton.

What can you set out? Think tree debris (6 feet or less in length) and bagged yard waste; household appliances; refrigerators and air conditioners, if the refrigerant has been removed by a licensed professional; mattresses and furniture; carpet and padding; fencing materials (fencing panels must be 6 feet by 8 feet or smaller) and lumber.

The total is limited to four cubic yards; more than that will mean a fee. Need a visual? That is equivalent to four washing machines or three queen mattresses. What you can’t put out ranges from automotive items and fluids, to construction debris, to hazardous waste.

Once-a-week trash will mean some changes in operations. For example, you still get trash collection even if your day falls on a holiday. Vrska said while Thursday route residents will be moved to Wednesday collection for Thanksgiving Day, residential trash will be collected on all other city-observed holidays on their regular day, to include the Monday Labor Day and Memorial Day holidays.

Solid waste staff have acknowledged once-a-week service may cause problems for some residents. That’s why the city will continue to provide a service that has been standard since the polycart system was implemented in 2008-2009. Residents can receive a second (or more) polycart, but those additional carts come at a cost of $5.20 per month per polycart.

Vrska said about 1,800 residents have asked for additional carts, and city officials, anticipating a renewed interest, added 5,500 new polycarts to its inventory earlier this year. Because the Utility Services Department already had some carts, the city still has about 4,500 carts for use, Vrska said last week.

The limit is four polycarts per residence, and the solid waste collection division may need up to three weeks for delivery, she said. The carts are provided on a 12-month agreement; no cheating by asking for a cart only for two months during the spring.

Vrska said the new system will be an advantage for the city as a whole. In addition to taking more trash off the street, city staff has estimated an annual cost savings of $220,000.

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