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Columbia ‘one step closer’ to resuming curbside recycling


City of Columbia spokesman Matt Nestor said Wednesday that the city is one step closer for curbside recycling to resume.

In January, Utilities Director Dave Sorrell said the city was hoping to resume curbside collection by the end of February, if staffing levels allowed. According to Sorrell, staffing for the department needs to be at 90% for curbside collection to start again.

Sorrell said the city was in the process of hiring seven employees last month. According to Nestor, four of those individuals accepted the job. Three people began training for the position during the week of Jan. 29.

Nestor said although the seven new employees have been hired, the city is not ready to bring the service back. Nestor said he was unsure of how many more hires need to happen in order for curbside collection to begin, but noted this puts the city a step closer.

Current staffing levels were not immediately available Wednesday night. However, they were at 71% with 18 vacancies as of January, according to Sorrell.

The city suspended its curbside recycling services in May, citing staffing issues.

A class-action lawsuit was filed in December, alleging a breach of contract after the city suspended its services, claiming residents were still being charged fees after. The city denied the allegations, claiming the solid waste program does not have a contract with its residents.

The canceling of curbside recycling has also caused overflowing bins at several drop-off locations across the city. A report was conducted by RRT Design & Construction LLC that outlined ways to improve the drop-off locations. The report recommends consolidating the South Providence and State Farm Parkway locations, staffing and gating some locations, as well as changing the hours locations are open.

At a candidate forum held Wednesday for the April election, Ward 6 councilwoman Betsy Peters said the city is hoping to have curbside recycling resume in March, after roll carts are officially in use for trash pickup. Roll carts will start being used on March 4.

"We should have enough folks in solid waste to do both of do like every other week recycling pick up and then the weekly trash pick up," Peters said.

Ward 2 candidate Robert Schreiber III said at the forum that he'd advocate for paying employees more, if elected in April to help gain and retain workers. Another candidate for Ward 2, Lisa Meyer, was not at the forum, which was held at the public library.

"Which, I think the city has been starting (paying employees more)," Schreiber said. "They've started to pay incoming people better, but they also need to deal with wage compression, which is raising the pay of people that have already been there and are training these new people."

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Nia Hinson


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