OP touts plan to unify commercial building garbage hauling

? Fewer trucks in crowded alleys, reduced costs cited as benefits to business and multi-family building owners.

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By BOB SKOLNIK

Oak Park's Public Works department is in the preliminary stages of considering whether to propose an ordinance allowing the village government to hire just one company to collect all the commercial and multi-family solid waste generated in the village.

Evaluating the possibility has started with a road show in which Karen Rozmus, the village's long-time waste reduction manager, presents the pros and cons of the idea to local business organizations. She made the first presentation last week to members of the newly formed Business Association Council, which includes representatives of all village business districts.

Currently commercial and multi-family property owners are responsible for arranging the collection and removal of their own trash and recyclables. 

These property owners contract with a variety of waste haulers leading to numerous trucks from different companies rumbling down Oak Park alleys.

If commercial solid waste collection was unified, the village would negotiate a contract with one company to handle all the solid waste and recycling generated by commercial and multi-family properties for a specified length of time.

It is an idea which seems to be catching favor with several Chicago area suburbs. Currently Skokie, Lombard and Westmont have adopted such an approach.

"We've found it works better," said Bill Mueller, the mayor of west suburban Lombard. "We feel it saves wear and tear on the community."

Among the advantages cited by Rozmus in her presentation last week would be fewer trucks tearing up alleys and less noise and pollution. A key selling point, though, was an anticipated reduction in collection costs for businesses.

"This seems to be kind of a trend," said Rozmus. "We have opened the dialogue. This has been kicked around for a long time.  The village spends so much money for alley improvements.  The number one benefit for customers would be lower cost. It's a beginning.  We definitely want to put it out there to the business community.  We're just talking about it."

Newly elected Village President David Pope is open to the idea. He sat in on last week's first presentation. "I think it's an idea worth considering," said Pope.

Donna Ogdon Chen, executive director of Downtown Oak Park, also believes unifying commercial waste collection is an idea worth thinking about.

"I think it's a very interesting idea that should be pursued," said Ogdon-Chen.  "What the outcome is remains to be seen. It's definitely worthy of study."

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