Government & Politics

Kansas City takes action on Northland trash complaints, plans to take service in-house

Chuck Byrd, president of Jim’s Disposal Service, addresses the Northland’s trash issues

Northland trash contractor says heat, staffing and new drivers learning to navigate winding streets contributed to recent service problems.
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Northland trash contractor says heat, staffing and new drivers learning to navigate winding streets contributed to recent service problems.

An outpouring of resident complaints has pushed Kansas City to bring its trash collection service in house after outsourcing it to a private contractor for more than 40 years.

City Council members voted unanimously on Thursday to allow the city to take over collection for homes in the Northland and south Kansas City, currently performed by Waste Corporation of America and Jim’s Disposal Service. Municipal crews already cover the area between the Missouri River and 63rd Street.

The city began considering in-house service when complaints about missed and inconsistent pickups in the Northland skyrocketed. Satisfaction in the service fell 22 percent, according to a city survey. At the same time, city staff learned the costs to do business with private collection companies would skyrocket.

Council members voted in February to authorize City Manager Troy Schulte’s office to come up with a plan.

“Trash and recycling is the most basic of services that we provide here in Kansas City, and when we don’t do what they expect, it’s very frustrating,” Northland Councilwoman Heather Hall said at the time.

Staff estimate in-house trash service will save the city $20 million over 10 years compared to signing a new private contract. And that takes into account the cost of new trucks, and the hiring and training of workers. With those savings, officials said they expect to provide better, more reliable service with improved bulky item and brush collection and expanded opportunities to clean up neighborhoods.

The numbers were met with some skepticism last month. Two council committees, Neighborhoods & Public Safety and Finance & Governance, tied 4-4 in a joint session and failed to send the proposal to the full council.

The two panels met again Wednesday, and, with the urging of Northland residents who turned out for the meeting, passed the plan.

City Manager Troy Schulte’s office will spend the next year hiring more than 75 new trash collectors, buying trucks and preparing to bring the city’s embattled service in-house when the private contracts expire on April 30, 2020.

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