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West Allis considers new mandatory trash carts

But idea, partly tied to rat concern, will require more discussion

Feb. 25, 2014

West Allis — Motivated by concerns about loose garbage, and the continuing rodent problem in parts of the city's east side, officials are once again looking into whether to make local residents buy new trash carts.

As a first step, the Common Council Public Works Committee last week called for more information about the kind of trash cart that might be used.

West Allis routinely sells trash carts. The existing version has served the city well, but aldermen wanted to know what sorts of changes might be coming that could affect the type of carts needed.

What kind of cart?

Alderman Marty Weigel said the last thing officials want to do is make everyone buy a cart and then come back two or three years later telling them they must buy something different.

For example, if the city decides not to use the existing blue bags for recycling, officials would have to choose between a cart with a partition separating trash and recyclables or simply a second cart for recycling.

It's possible recyclables wouldn't be separated at all. In some communities trash and recyclables come mixed to a separation plant, where they are then sorted and processed, Weigel noted.

The city of Milwaukee is working on such a concept now with waste haulers. Such a system would likely affect West Allis and certainly the kind of trash carts that would be needed, he said.

"If we ask (residents) to invest in garbage carts it would have to be something we'd be happy with for 10 or 15 years," Weigel said.

Residential burden

Alderman Vince Vitale, who is spearheading the effort to have city carts at all residences, noted that roughly 70 percent of homes already have the current city carts, which creates a practical concern tied to any city decision to switch carts.

"It would be hard to say you cannot use these anymore," Vitale said after the meeting

If the city did require new carts, Vitale suggested the city could split up the costs into two payments, which would help low-income residents. The trash carts sell for $40 for a 63-gallon container and $45 for the 96-gallon container.

Although both Vitale and Alderman Michael Czaplewski represent the 1st District on the city's east side, they have opposite opinions about making people buy city carts.

Czaplewski said it would be bad for people, given that people have a hard time getting by these days.

"At a convenience store, I saw people paying for purchases with change," Czaplewski said. "The economy is horrible and seniors are just trying to live in their houses."

And it could be bad for the local economy, if, collectively, thousands of dollars of residents' money had to be spent on trash carts instead of at at restaurants, coffee shops and stores locally.

Tied to rat problem

Alderwoman Cathleen Probst noted that the mandatory use of city carts would help offset another concern — the rat problem.

City carts with lids would discourage rodents by taking a food source away. Duplexes are a particular problem because many landlords don't provide enough trash cans, she said.

Aldermen revisited the issue last week after passing an ordinance only last May requiring residents to buy city trash receptacles if their containers were found with loosely fitting lids twice in one year.

Those favoring a stronger ordinance said this approach would take too long to eliminate the rodent problem.

"We still are seeing a lot of loose garbage out there," Public Works Director Michael Lewis said.

Last week's council consideration was triggered by a letter from Health Commissioner Susan Nusslock who noted the continuing complaints of rats, skunks and raccoons and that the Public Works Department has recommended going to a uniform cart system.

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