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Three neighborhoods rally to make St. Pete recycling more flexible

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A coalition of traditional neighborhoods in St. Pete is angry the city has still not responded to repeated requests for alley recycling pickup, mirroring the way trash is picked up in those areas.

Alley access is available in 40 percent of St. Pete neighborhoods, but the city’s newly rolled out universal recycling program only collects recycling from the 95 gallon blue rolling bins from the curbside.

The neighborhoods, Historic Old Northeast, Granada Terrace, Historic Kenwood and the Saint Petersburg Downtown Association officially, banded together and sent a letter to the city pleading for a more flexible program.

The letter was sent on July 7 to the mayor and members of City Council. More than one week later, the group has yet to receive a response.

“Since the creation of our traditional neighborhoods, our trash bins and pickup have always been in the alley, thus causing not only confusion, but for many homes, an inability to participate,” the letter read.

The plea comes from a coalition representing some 14,000 city residents and that doesn’t even include neighborhoods with alley access that did not join the group. Those are multiple neighborhoods in parts of West St. Pete.

The group contends that while many non-traditional neighborhoods in the city can benefit from curbside pickup because those homes typically have driveways and garages at the front of the property, homes with alleys tend to have those amenities located at the back of their properties near the alley. This, they argue, makes effectively and efficiently storing the recycling bins difficult.

“It is not easy and, in some cases, impossible for some residents to wheel the very large, 95-gallon blue bins from side or back yards to the front curb because of fencing or landscaping,” the letter continued.

Peter Motzenbecker, the president of the Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association, told reporters and residents during a press conference on the first day of pickup in late June he would have to remove parts of his landscaping in order to move the bin from the rear of his home to the front curb.

Motzenbecker’s only other option was to wheel the bin around the block to the front. That’s something he said he could do, but many residents either can’t or won’t.

The city has said the program will be tweaked as necessary once the program fully launches and City Council has addressed the potential oversight in traditional neighborhoods. City Council member Darden Rice has specifically called on staff to consider implementing more flexibility in the program for homes with alley access.

Yet the lack of response from the city to this latest letter is troubling to the coalition. They are looking for specific indicators that the problem will be solved. So far in their quest they have made several suggestions including purchasing smaller trucks to accommodate alley access or offering smaller bins for residents who may not need the larger containers.

The city purchased seven trucks for recycling and said they are too large to safely navigate alleys.

Regardless, the coalition isn’t likely to let the issue go to rest. In addition to concerns over participation – HONNA specifically has emphasized its appreciation for the value of recycling – the group is also concerned about aesthetics.

With limited access to the curb from the back of homes neighborhood leaders fear residents will store the containers in conspicuous locations in their front yards creating an unsightly eyesore in otherwise pristine areas.

“We will continue to be a courteous, but consistent voice in this process, advocating respectfully on behalf of the needs of our residents,” the letter concluded.

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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