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Historic Old Northeast to St. Pete: Yes to recycling; no to curbside

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Leaders of the Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association are continuing to push back against the city over curbside recycling. In its latest plea, the organization send the message to City Hall that they are a “yes” for recycling, but a “no” for curbside pickup.

As residents in some parts of the city gear up for the first round of recycling pickup next week, HONNA is still concerned for 40 percent of the city’s homes that fall within traditional neighborhoods that use alleys for trash pickup.

“HONNA is concerned that there are many hindrances and unintended consequences associated with the mandated curbside pickup: homes in these neighborhoods aren’t functionally designed to inconspicuously store the 95-gallon recycling bins, aiding in urban blight; the recycling trucks impose risks by navigating on already narrow streets; and young children playing in front yards will be less visible to truck drivers, thus imposing risks to youth safety,” a press release cautions.

Instead HONNA leaders are asking city officials to work with them in “lockstep” to “ensure that a one-size-fits-all recycling program isn’t determined as the ultimate solution for the city’s more traditional neighborhoods.”

Residents in homes where trash is collected from the alleys will have to take the 95-gallon blue recycling bins to the curbs in front of their homes instead of to the alleys at the back where trash is taken and collected.

The city has explained the curbside pickup is necessary because the trucks specially ordered to carry out the city’s new recycling program are too large to navigate narrow alleys.

But leaders in neighborhoods with alley access – there’s also places like Historic Kenwood and Grenada Terrace – have continued to plead with officials to find a way.

“If the program is fully implemented as currently planned, we fear curbside recycling will lead to significantly less participation with recycling in traditional neighborhoods than a program that includes alley pickup,” said HONNA President Peter Motzenbecker.

But the group doesn’t come with threats alone. They suggest finding a way to use smaller trucks and recycling bins in areas where it’s appropriate. The HONNA press release points to programs in places like neighboring Tampa and Lakeland as well as historic neighborhoods in St. Louis and Chicago.

In Tampa, for example, the director of Solid Waste and Environmental Program Management, Mark Wilfalk, listened to concerned homeowners from the area’s historic neighborhoods, including Hyde Park and Seminole Heights. The City of Tampa ultimately switched to smaller, 65-gallon containers and trucks to allow for easy alleyway pickup and appease resident concerns,” the press release continued.

HONNA’s alley concerns aren’t the only woes plaguing city officials. Many residents are angry with the way the bins look, their size and the fact that every resident has to pay for the program even if they don’t use it.

Another issue is beginning to come to a head in places like Historic Kenwood where many properties have in-law suites no longer used as rentals. Families in those home were delivered two bins and will have to pay double for recycling as a result.

As it stands right now that double fee would be incurred even if the homeowner returns one of the bins. That’s a problem City Council members have said needs to be worked out.

Despite the loud noise surrounding St. Pete’s new recycling program only a couple of hundred residents have either requested their bins be picked up or returned them on their own.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman has said that’s a sign residents do want recycling. He said the program will be tweaked as it rolls out, but so far, little has been done to address concerns.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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