Greensboro District 2 City Councilmember Goldie Wells has made it a practice to get to the heart of an issue when other councilmembers talk all around it.
This was the case again at the Tuesday, Jan. 2 meeting when the City Council got into a long confusing discussion about ending the loose leaf collection program and going to yard waste carts and biodegradable paper bags.
The two councilmembers opposed to ending loose leaf collection, Councilmembers Zack Matheny and Hugh Holston, made good points about the questionable savings the city is projecting from this change.
The cost savings was, according to city staff, projected to be about $250,000 a year.
Matheny said, “If you’re saving $250,000 a year, if I do my math correctly, over 15 years that’s $3.6 million.”
In April 2023, the City Council was told that by ending loose leaf collection over 15 years the city would save $3.7 million. The reason for the 15-year time frame is that is the expected life of the yard waste carts. However, in August the cost savings was raised to $10 million over $15 years, but the savings was still said to be $250,000 a year. As Matheny noted, that projected cost savings is without taking into consideration the cost of financing the $4.1 million to buy the yard waste cans. City staff could not have considered the cost of financing the debt because it had no estimate of what that cost would be.
But as Wells noted, “It’s not about the dollars and cents.”
Wells said, “Every time you bring up leaf collection people from certain communities come and they do not want us to not pick up their leaves. Now we don’t have a lot of complaints about leaves because as Sharon [District 1 Councilmember Sharon Hightower] said, we don’t have a lot of trees. When they build our houses, they don’t want to put in trees because they say we won’t keep the shrubbery up. And I know that they say it because I was on the committee when we were coming up with the new plan for the people.”
When Matheny was talking about the vast number of emails councilmembers had received opposing ending loose leaf collection, Hightower interrupted him and said, “All from the same zip code 08 and 55.” Those would be zip codes in northwest Greensboro, 27408 and 27455.
Matheny noted that one speaker said ending loose leaf collection was to punish west Greensboro. He said, “Whoever said punish west Greensboro, punish for what? Gahl-dang, why can’t we all just get along.”