BLOOMINGTON — Hundreds of Bloomington residents have been leaving their bulky waste at the curb even though the next free collection isn't until Oct. 1, and city officials are trying to spread the word that they face fees if they don't remove it.
"There are nearly 550 people who haven't gotten the message, and there are probably more people who have set material out that our crews have not gotten to and tagged," Public Works Director Jim Karch said Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, public works employees have tagged 546 locations citywide where bulky waste has been put out at the curb despite an ordinance change in February that eliminated free every-other-week bulky waste pickup as a cost-cutting measure.
"The city understands that not everyone has gotten this message right away," said Karch. "I think some people are still wondering if the city is going to take it seriously, and I think some people weren't aware of the changes."
In one case, a Chicago-based landlord, unaware of the change, carried mattresses, furniture and other bulky waste left behind by tenants to the curb in front of two apartment houses he owns in the 1000 block of North Prairie Street. The city's warning tags caught the attention of Kristina Dunlap of Atlanta, who is painting houses for the owner, and she called him.
"I don't think it's a bad deal that (the city) is only doing the pickups twice a year, but I felt that they should have given more notice to give people more opportunity to get rid of their bulk items," she said.
Dunlap said she is trying to help clean out the basement of her elderly mother's Bloomington residence, "but we weren't able to do it prior to the last pickup so now we have to wait until October to help her out."
The City Council’s decision to limit curbside bulky waste pickup to twice a year and raise monthly fees by $5 each for its two larger garbage carts is expected to close a $1.1 million annual deficit in the solid waste disposal program.
"We've seen bulky waste at stops all over the community so it really is a citywide education effort," said Karch.
City workers tag the bulky waste and hang notices on doors to let residents know they can dispose of it themselves at the Citizen Convenience Center at no charge or request a pickup at a cost of $25 per front-end loader bucket.
"Most people when they see that do remove the material," said Karch.
If they don't remove the waste within two weeks, a city crew will remove it and the fee will be added to their water bill, he said.
Residents can request curbside collection through the myBloomington app or by calling the public works department.
That educational tagging process will continue through the summer, and then the city will evaluate what to do next.
"We really want to be as gracious as we can throughout this change, but there does come a point where we do want to ensure that we have a clean community," Karch said.
The number of locations in violation amounts to 2 percent of the 24,000 households from which the city collects garbage.
Aside from bulky waste, garbage will continue to be collected weekly and recycling and brush will be picked up every other week.
The change has allowed the public works department to shift four workers from waste collection to working more on streets and sewers.
The City Council will consider, possibly at its June 25 meeting, approving the purchase of two knuckle-boom trucks equipped with extendable claws "to increase efficiency" in collecting brush and bulky waste. The one-person vehicles would cost $129,463 apiece through a National Joint Powers Alliance contract, said Karch.
During the May 1-9 citywide spring bulky waste pickup, crews hauled 277 loads of bulk waste weighing more than 547 tons. The spring collection was the beginning of the shift from picking up bulk waste every other week to twice a year at no charge.
Last year, the city collected 3,957 tons of bulky waste.