We will start this editorial today saying we support the push to get curbside recycling in Ashland, but we do so with two major caveats of caution.
Our caveats are these: it has to be somewhat reasonable on the costs and the costs have to be very well defined.
Will the city break even on curbside? Of course not. No way. But if the costs are reasonable, even if at a loss, the policy and practice of curbside makes sense for a lot of very good, obvious reasons.
Thus, we urge the city to exhibit caution on this and to simply make sure they get it right. Yes, curbside is the right thing to do. Yes people want it. However, the push for what is right on issues like this often blinds politicians to sugar coat the costs side, and any measure like this cannot be done without, in the public sector, a very specific analysis of what are the actual, defined costs over a period of years.
In both Russell and now in Ashland the insinuation is that curbside recycling can be done with very little cost to the taxpayer. This is simply not true. In Russell when we asked very specific questions about these issues, we got answers that indicate it depends and as we move forward we will get more specifics. In Ashland the long and the short of the answer is it depends on how many people sign up.
This is what brings us to our words of caution today. Our experience is curbside recycling is not cheap. Very few cities break even on curbside or come close. We suppose some do but in our experience is most don't.
The city has a lot of other major financial obligations that very few seem to care about or talk about or feel passionate about at all. They are water lines, pension obligations and other major infrastructure upgrades like wastewater treatment. These bills will come due, and make no mistake about it -- they are major, major bills. Every penny matters these days when it comes to public policy. The city also spent tens of thousands upgrading a recycling center near the bridges. If this facility goes by the wayside you can add those costs to the costs of curbside.
There is a reason why the city of Ashland has gone back and forth on this multiple times. The reason is the numbers don't scratch when considering the number of users willing to pay extra for it.
It appears this time Rumpke of Kentucky has put forth a very sharp plan aimed at addressing these issues. They deserve a lot of credit for making this happen.
We would like to see curbside recycling in Ashland. Here's how we think it should be done: Here's the exact costs over 10 years. Those exact costs will be paid for by all users of the system equally.
Everyone's bill is going to go up by this much whether you use it or not to pay for this service. Don't like it? Tough. We also think if people have to pay for the service -- and it is not voluntary -- they will be more likely to use it.
Curbside recycling is the right thing to do.
This seems to us to be a common sense approach to making it happen.