Queen Creek residents will have townwide garbage and recycling pickup for the first time after the Town Council approved a contract with Right Away Disposal early Thursday morning.
The council approved the contract on a 4-1 vote just before 1 a.m. after a more than five-hour meeting. Councilman Jeff Brown dissented, and council members Jon Wootten and Joyce Hildebrandt were absent.
Residents will pay $15.41 a month for once-a-week trash and recycling pickup, once-a-month scheduled bulk pickup and other services including electronics recycling.
Residents can stop the service for up to six months if they're out of town for an extended period of time. Large livestock owners or homeowners on lots greater than two acres may also opt out, although those residents will still be required to pay $6.65 a month for recycling service.
Service for most homes will start in September, although some neighborhoods will be phased in later as their current contracts expire.
The vote ends a years-long discussion on whether the town should institute curbside trash pickup for all residents after the county landfill at Riggs and Hawes roads closed in 2007. Currently, residents must haul their own garbage, enter an individual contract for curbside pickup or depend on their homeowners associations' contracts for the service.
An informal survey in 2008 indicated most residents supported the town negotiating a curbside trash and recycling contract.
Reaction to the proposal was been mixed once details came out in recent months. Since October, 87 households in town said they liked the idea and 63 indicated they were against it.
A petition opposing the service represented 66 households.
Shortly before the vote, Councilman Craig Barnes pointed to comments in support of curbside service the town had received over the years.
"The only other city in the Phoenix area that doesn't do this (curbside waste pickup) is Apache Junction," Barnes said. "When we talk about this, we constantly hear from people, 'Why doesn't Queen Creek do recycling? Why do I have to figure out what to do with my trash?'"
Three residents spoke against the program Wednesday. Shane Leonard described curbside pickup as a "solution looking for a problem."
"This is removing choice," Leonard said. "Some of us have a solution that does work. Why should we be forced to give that up?"
Chamber of Commerce President Rustyn Sherer was the only person to speak up in favor at the meeting.
"This is a local company that's interested in making a long-term investment in Queen Creek," he said of Right Away.
Councilman Jeff Brown said he couldn't support the program because of a philosophical issue about the role of government. Private companies already offer curbside trash and recycling in Queen Creek, Brown said.
Brown was also concerned about cost.
Queen Creek is using $906,660 from its investment funds to lend the program for waste containers and other startup costs.
But with the economy still weak and the town having cut 64 jobs and about $10 million out of its general fund budget over the past three years, Brown said that money should not be spent to start a garbage program right now.
"We're looking to cut another $4.1 million out of the $20 million budget" this year, Brown said. "Why are we reinventing the wheel?"
But Assistant Town Manager Patrick Flynn said it was a good investment in a new community resource.
On average, the town has about $50 million in investments, Flynn said. The garbage plan will take about $1 million from those funds, which are currently receiving about a 2 percent return. The program will pay back the investment funds at 4 percent over 10 years, he said.
Councilman Gordon Mortensen said the idea makes sense from a safety standpoint, since fewer trucks will be on the roads. And he said it makes recycling more cost-effective.
He also thought it was a good business investment.
"Anyone who has savings or a cash position now in the economy can make some great investments in business and real estate," Mortensen said. "We're in the position to make that kind of business decision right now."