Ascension working out trash, recycling plans

Ascension Parish residents could receive garbage pickup twice a week and weekly recycling services as soon as next year.

The Ascension Parish Council is considering adopting mandatory guidelines for minimal services for any garbage collector who wants to work in the parish. The council’s Strategic Planning Commission received a copy of the proposed guidelines earlier this month and is expected to further discuss the issue at its next meeting March 4.

The current proposal, which was presented to the commission by Thomas “Moose” Pearce, chief executive assistant to Parish President Tommy Martinez, would give residents two options.

One option would include weekly garbage pickup, which most of the parish’s residents have currently, while the second option includes twice-a-week pickup, an option being offered for the first time.

Both options also include weekly recycling and small brush pickup, as well as monthly pickup of bulky waste and white goods, which also could be available on a call-out basis rather than monthly, Pearce said.

The proposal would include a 1 percent franchise fee charged to residents, which Councilman Kent Schexnaydre said would cost about 25 cents per month. The franchise fees will be dedicated for use on parish roads.

“We want this to be revenue-neutral,” he said.

Parish Council Chairman Chris Loar, who has been an advocate for parishwide garbage pickup, said the plan could be a good compromise.

“It’s past time we provided the citizens the same services that all the parishes around us have in terms of recycling, yard, bulk waste and white goods pickup,” Loar said.

“At a minimum, it’s time we set higher standards for the waste haulers involved in providing this utility service to our citizens.”

Initially, parish officials were discussing an exclusive franchise contract for garbage services, thinking they could drive down costs for residents who pay between $20 and $25 per month for residential pickup.

However, after push back from residents, garbage companies and some parish council members, the plan presented earlier this month would be non-exclusive and still would give residents the opportunity to choose from a group of companies who register with the parish.

“They must sign up with the parish as a franchise,” Schexnaydre said. “It’s non-exclusive. Anyone can do business in the parish. You’re welcome to come in; just sign up. If you do want to do business in the parish, you are required to provide the services listed above.”

“While I still prefer putting this out to bid for a sole provider because of the cheaper cost it would bring our citizens, I understand that there are people who still want to have a choice of provider,” Loar said.

“This plan could give our citizens the services they have been asking for and still have a choice in provider.”

Companies wishing to provide services to parish residents would have to register as a franchise by June 1, Pearce said.

All of the services would have to be available by Jan. 1.

The agreement with the parish and the franchises would be for three years, Pearce said, with an option for the parish and companies to renew the deal for additional three-year terms.

“Anybody that wishes to get in the garbage business, we welcome them,” Schexnaydre said. “All we want is to make sure there’s a minimum of services that will be provided.”