2020 BUDGETING: On the horizon for the Board of Directors. Brian Chilson

In a meeting Tuesday afternoon, Public Works Director Jon Honeywell presented the Little Rock Board of Directors with ACE Glass’s response to a Request For Proposal for a glass recycling contract with the city that the board asked to be issued earlier this year. ACE Glass’s proposal would charge an additional $3.29 per household, per month for curbside glass recycling services on top of the city’s $28.90 monthly solid waste fee, totaling a monthly fee of $32.39.

Little Rock’s glass recycling services were removed from its contract with Waste Management when the city negotiated an extension of that contract in 2018, and the city stopped providing curbside recycling services in March of 2019. Honeywell noted that this extension ends on March 31, 2021, so in 2021, the city would have an “opportunity” to “have glass recycling considered in an overall recycling program and not as a separate contract.”

ACE Glass’s proposal is a two-year contract with three one-year extensions, so it could last for up to five years. The company was the sole respondent to the city’s RFP. The board could create a resolution and vote on the glass recycling contract soon, or it could wait until the extension of the Waste Management contract expires in 2021 and consider adding glass recycling to the larger recycling program at that time.

Ward 6 director Doris Wright asked Honeywell why he was bringing this proposal forward now. Honeywell said it was because his department was asked to do so. Wright said she’s gotten “feedback” from her constituents who are upset about the city’s solid waste fees, which the board voted to increase from $22.02 per month to $28.90 per month in September, saying that an additional glass recycling fee “seems like a bit much” for people on “fixed incomes.”

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“You’re taking a hit now instead of letting this thing play out and [letting] people get comfortable with what we’re going to increase to,” Wright said. 

At-large director Joan Adcock shared similar concerns about the potential cost of additional glass recycling fees for low-income residents.

“Some people just cannot afford this,” Adcock said. “And we want to be a progressive city and everything, mayor, but we want to be sensitive, also, to the people in our city: the people who live on a fixed income or a small amount. … Although $3.29 may not seem like much, that’s a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread, probably. To me, I think we need to be a sensitive city as well as a progressive city.” 

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. followed Adcock’s comments by reminding the board that it asked for the RFP process to be completed.

Adcock said she would rather the city continue not providing curbside glass recycling and instead take the issue up when the extension of its Waste Management contract expires in 2021.

Ward 3 director Kathy Webb, who serves on the Little Rock Sustainability Commission, asked about the process of adding a resolution on glass recycling to the agenda of the board’s Nov. 19 and Nov. 26 meetings. Scott asked City Attorney Tom Carpenter to author the resolution and have it on those agendas for a vote at the Nov. 26 reconvened meeting.

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Ward 4 director Capi Peck, who also serves on the Sustainability Commission, said she was “delighted” by the $3.29 fee because she “thought it was going to be a lot more.”

“This is something that’s really important to me, not just because it makes a statement that we are being a more progressive city,” Peck said. “I think this is what people that are moving here want to see, young people who are focused on conservation, are focused on the environment. I just think it’d be a big step backwards if we don’t embrace this.”

Peck added that “for the most part, people want to be able to recycle their glass,” saying that the addition of citywide glass recycling would create more jobs for the Public Works department and “have an impact on wages of almost $1 million.” She said she’s “sensitive” to the fact that for some people on fixed incomes, the additional $3.29 fee could be a “hardship,” but “in the grand scheme of things, this has [a] huge impact for economic development.”

Peck said people “across the city” recycle their glass and asked Courtney Little, president of ACE Glass, how much glass recycling the company currently picks up at its deposit locations across the city. Little said the company has picked up “a thousand tons of glass” since the city stopped offering curbside glass recycling in March.

Ward 5 director Lance Hines brought up the fact that ACE Glass is a Little Rock company, and that the additional $3.29 fee will go back into “our local economy” with new jobs in pick-up and processing, “whereas Waste Management and these other companies we’ve been contracting with are not Little Rock-operated companies, and those profits funnel back into a corporate entity outside the state.”

The resolution for the glass recycling contract will be added to the Nov. 19 agenda meeting, and it will be voted on at the Nov. 26 meeting. The board will also continue to discuss the 2020 budget at the Nov. 19 meeting, though some directors will be absent, so that meeting will be recessed and then reconvened on Nov. 26 for a vote on the budget.

The board first began discussions about next year’s budget in September, and city leaders have since addressed changes to employee health care costs, salary increases for “low level” city employees and the effects of the 2019 budget amendment passed in June on the balanced 2020 budget. Scott first said in September that it was his “aggressive goal” to pass the 2020 budget by Nov. 19, as previous administrations have usually not passed the following year’s budget until December. 

The balanced 2020 budget totals equal general fund revenues and expenditures of $212,125,253 each. As in past years, personnel costs make up the largest portion of expenditures, about 75 percent. Of the general fund revenues, 51 percent come from sales and use tax.