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Published: Thursday, 7/9/2009

Konop: City should help seniors take out their trash

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Mayoral candidate Ben Konop yesterday said the city should offer to take senior citizens' trash containers out to the street when the automated system takes effect, even as the Finkbeiner administration was trying to come up with its own plan to help seniors.

Mr. Konop said he would allow everyone who is 62 and older or medically disabled to put their name on a list to have their trash receptacles rolled to the curb for them, emptied, and returned.

"We will make sure senior citizens or citizens living with disabilities can have their bins carried to the curb," said Mr. Konop, a Democratic Lucas County commissioner and one of five major candidates vying to succeed Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who is in the last year of his third term in office.

Yesterday, Bob Reinbolt, the mayor's chief of staff, said the administration was exploring a "subscription program" that would allow seniors to buy the extra service of having their trash bins hauled out to the street. He said other cities look to social service agencies and neighbors to help.

The Finkbeiner administration is grappling with a deficit that has forced it to lay off 75 police officers and to reduce hours.

On Tuesday, City Council voted to buy 40 automated garbage trucks for $12.2 million, to be paid for with savings from laying off 70 refuse collectors. The new trucks would operate with one-man crews, unlike the present system that uses three-man crews.

The switch is estimated to save the city $3.2 million in 2010, rising to $5.2 million in savings in 2016.

Homes will be supplied with bins - 96 gallons each, unless residents have requested a smaller version - that can be rolled to the curb to be lifted by the arm of an automated truck. At present, trash can be left out in any size container, or in plastic trash bags.

Mr. Konop said he would keep some of the existing trucks and employees on a special detail. He didn't have a cost estimate. "If there are additional costs, I think we can generate it from savings," he said.

He predicted most seniors won't ask for the help. "It's not morally right to force a 95-year-old grandmother in the city of Toledo living alone to take one of these to the curb by herself," Mr. Konop said, pointing out the increased difficulty of doing it in winter.

He said the city should reopen the period for seniors to opt for a smaller trash bin. The deadline to take the option of a 64 or 48-gallon container, rather than the default 96-gallon size, was June 8. Mr. Konop said many people didn't even know about the option.

And he proposed color-coding trash bins to help residents keep track of their collection schedule.

Mr. Konop's opponents in the mayoral contest said the added cost was an obvious flaw.

Republican Jim Moody said he favors protecting and helping seniors and the disabled, as well as keeping an eye on expenses.

"Mr. Konop ignores the budgetary realities of this city and has again floated a proposal that has no cost basis [or] accurate funding mechanism and smacks of political pandering for votes," Mr. Moody said.

Mr. Konop said, "If looking out for seniors and making them a priority is playing politics, then I guess I'm guilty of that."

Independent mayoral candidate Mike Bell said something should be done to accommodate seniors with a need, but said a new subsidized government service would have to be paid for.

"The whole idea [of automated trash collection] is to reduce the cost of the system and he's proposing to increase the cost to the system," Mr. Bell said. He agreed the city should allow senior citizens to obtain a smaller bin.

Independent D. Michael Collins and Democrat Keith Wilkowski did not respond to calls for comment.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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