‘A fabulous first step’: Houghton to pursue return of downtown recycling

Houghton to pursue return of downtown recycling

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton City Council backed pursuing recycling dumpsters for downtown businesses and residents at its meeting Wednesday. Additionally, it voted to provide matching funds for a Copper Country Recycling Initiative grant request that would add about 15 recycling containers in Houghton, which would be paired with trash containers.

HOUGHTON — Recycling is on the way to coming back to downtown Houghton.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the Houghton City Council voted to pursue adding about five recycling dumpsters at select downtown locations for businesses and residents. The city had received numerous requests for the change, which will come to the council in the form of an amended trash ordinance.

Last year, the city moved away from the bag system and smaller recycling bins, in line with Waste Management’s new automated trash pickup system. In residential areas, homes moved to 64-gallon trash and recycling containers. In downtown areas, trash pickup was being moved to common or private dumpsters.

The change “has certainly made a difference in how we look on garbage day, and it’s a lot cleaner system,” Waara said. But it left a hole in downtown recycling — one Waara said was intended to be filled once trash pickup had been handled.

“Now that trash handling is up and running, we can start to look at how we can bring recycling back,” he said. “It’s going to have to operate differently than before based on the logistics of the situation. And if we were able to bring back recycling the amount of trash generated downtown should drop as people have an option now.”

The dumpsters, which would be placed near the city’s common trash dumpsters, would have signage stating they are for downtown residents and businesses only.

Placing the recycling dumpsters downtown and having them emptied once a week would cost the city about $1,000 per month, Waara said.

Buildings with private dumpsters would be charged $5 per unit to offset the costs. Recycling is included in the trash rates for buildings using the common dumpsters.

Councilor Virginia Cole called the proposed move “a fabulous first step.” She suggested also putting signage up to let people know what is and isn’t recyclable.

“I think a number of downtown businesses are going to be thrilled that they have that option, and a convenient option,” she said.

City administration had also looked at other alternatives, which were found lacking.

Returning to recycling carts with a Tuesday pickup would have brought back the sight of curbside piles on Shelden Avenue, Waara said. It would also pose problems for the new Waste Management trucks.

“Honestly, I’m just going to say, that’s not a good option because they don’t really have the equipment for it,” he said. “And we don’t want to just repeat sins of the past.”

A second option was creating a second dropoff site, probably by the Department of Public Works building. Many customers would likely find it too burdensome, Waara said. The remote site means it would also be difficult to guard against abuse without staffing, which would add expenses for the city.

The council also approved a $3,000 match for a Copper Country Recycling Initiative grant proposal that would add more recycling containers in Houghton and Hancock. Houghton would add about 15 containers, which would be paired with black trash containers.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the council awarded the bid for a rehabilitation project on west Lakeshore Drive to Bacco Construction for $572,619.25, as well as committing extra money from the city’s major street fund.

The bid came in over the original project budget of $400,000, which Waara attributed to the continued trend of rising construction costs. The city also added water and sewer work to the project.

“It did represent a real good opportunity to perform some strategic improvements which would prepare the water and sewer system down there for future work without having to dig the road up,” Waara said. “We knew this would increase the cost but having not had any other recent bids to compare, exactly how much was unknown.”

The largest amount of the cost, $200,000, will be paid from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds. The city plans to use $161,000 from a state grant. That money, and the city’s acceptance of the bid, depends upon approval from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Since most of the added work was in sewers, the sewer fund contributed $120,000. Funds had been added from next year’s sewer budget for the cost.

To address the remaining overrun, the city will use $91,619.15 from the major street fund, part of a fund balance created by the light winter. In most such years, the money would be used for paving, Waara said.

In other action, the council:

• Discussed a resident concern about the lack of a permanent pedestrian fence and guardrail at the pier downtown. Waara and council members said permanent barriers would be unnecessary, pointing to the large stretches of open city waterfront. The pier does have removable cable barriers which are used for city events.

• Approved an agreement for a sanitary sewer easement at 406 W. South Ave. The city will install a new sanitary sewer line to replace a crushed pipe that had been serving two houses.

• Approved the sale of a 2006 GMC pickup for scrap metal. The pickup had been totaled in an accident last year. The motor was pulled for potential future use.

• Approved a funding request from the Houghton High school senior class for its lock-in night for seniors. The class will receive $500 if 25 students show up for a city service project, and $750 if 35 show up.

• Approved an amendment to the city’s transit department drug and alcohol testing policy in accordance with changes to MDOT’s policies.


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