BERLIN – Town officials approved a new special collection policy that will change bulk pickup practices in Berlin.
The Berlin Town Council on Monday approved a new special collection policy that limits bulk pickup to four items. The new policy is meant to provide guidelines for the public and at the same time curb abuse of the town’s twice-a-year bulk pickup service.
“We hope this will significantly improve the situation for the pickup that’s in the spring,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “Let’s see how it goes. I’m hopeful it’ll significantly improve the situation. If there’s any wrinkles to iron out, we can do that before the fall collection.”
Town Administrator Jeff Fleetwood said the policy was initially presented in November but had been adjusted in response to citizen concerns. Originally, the policy would have limited the number of items a household could put out for bulk pickup and would allow them to pay an extra fee for additional items.
The updated policy presented this week limits households to four items at the spring pickup and four items at the fall pickup. It also requires citizens to call town hall prior to each pickup to report what items they’ll be putting out for pickup. The new policy also requires any fabric items, such as mattresses, be wrapped in plastic.
“From a health perspective I definitely want it stressed and pushed that that is a requirement, it’s not an option,” Fleetwood said.
Fleetwood said the policy as a whole was meant to ensure the bulk pickup service was not abused. He added that it would reduce town costs if staff knew in advance which households had items for bulk pickup, as staff wouldn’t have to check every street in town.
“I think this is a commonsense approach,” Williams said.
Councilman Zack Tyndall suggested the town allow residents to use the town website, as well as telephone, to register items for bulk pickup.
“It would be a nice way to collect some data and alleviate pressure downstairs,” he said.
When resident Jim Meckley asked if people would be able to pay for a sticker to put out an extra item or two, Fleetwood said that while that had been in the initially proposed policy it had been removed.
“The irony of this is a month and a half ago we were putting a limit in place and a mechanism to pay for extra things,” Fleetwood said, adding that residents had voiced concerns. “I felt it was the dollar amount that got folks. So this time around there is no dollar amount but there is a limit.”
Resident Marie Velong said that other towns that limited items for pickup typically offered pickup more than twice a year.
Deputy Town Administrator Mary Bohlen said that most of them also charged for the service.
“Every community has to find what’s right for them,” Williams said.
Velong pointed out that if the town didn’t pick up construction materials — which were not eligible for bulk pickup anyway — the changes in the proposed policy might not be needed.
“I think we’re going to try to do the right thing,” Williams said. “Would you stop nitpicking about a bunch of baloney and listen?”
Velong said she didn’t appreciate being spoken to that way.
“Well I tell you what you seem to be a very unhappy person,” Williams replied.
“You’re out of line Gee,” resident Jason Walter called from the audience.
“Well I’m sorry but there’s just a point — we’re trying to make something better,” Williams responded.
Williams added that the town’s tipping fees related to bulk pickup had increased. A chart provided by Fleetwood shows that the town paid $6,700 for disposal of 18 tons in 2017. The town paid $8,000 for disposal of 21 tons. The town paid $9,500 for disposal of 22 tons in 2019. Those costs include public works personnel, equipment, and tipping fees.
“You can’t continually add development and then complain because you’ve got extra trash from it,” Velong said.
While other residents went on to suggest the concept of a dumpster day instead of curbside bulk pickup, councilmembers expressed interest in giving the proposed policy a try first.
“I think we’ve heard a lot of really good ideas,” Tyndall said, adding that he wanted to try the policy and revisit it after a year. “If it’s not working then we adjust. We don’t know until we try.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the new policy and revisit it in a year.