Looking Back on One Year of Garbage Collection with LRS
In my role as Village Manager, one of the biggest challenges I face is finding new and creative ways to balance rising costs with declining revenues. The pressure of our long-range financial outlook serves as a daily reminder that for the Village to continue to offer the highest quality services possible, each program we provide to the community must be thoughtfully evaluated. As we near the one year anniversary of our new garbage collection program with Lakeshore Recycling Systems (LRS), I thought it would be a great opportunity to look back on the past year and consider how this change has impacted our community.
As you may remember, the Village Board’s decision to outsource was not made lightly (you can still review the analysis here). From your feedback in past community surveys and in a survey conducted specifically about garbage and recycling collection, we recognized that our residents value premium service levels. As such, in selecting a new provider, maintaining at least the same service level was front of mind. Our reaction to the past 12 months has been positive—we hope you agree that LRS has been an excellent partner in customer service. And as would be expected, when an issue does arise, the LRS team has worked with our staff to find a quick and equitable solution. LRS also offers our residents extended customer service hours. Their customer service facility is open from 7 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays (call LRS customer service at (773) 685-8811 to report an issue or change a service). This provides a live operator for an additional 90 minutes per day over-and-above what the Village was able to provide, as well as Saturday hours. With this said, I want to underscore that Village staff members are here should you need assistance seeking a solution to a specific issue. And of course, we always welcome your feedback on the program generally.
In addition to their focus on customer service, LRS has been able to provide our residents with new service options including a new curbside composting program, a second collection day for bulk items as well as an online billing portal. Furthermore, they have partnered with the Village on a new Hardship Program for those who are physically unable to bring their garbage carts to the curb. Your feedback in recent surveys also underscored that the community values environmental sustainability—something that LRS is committed to, as evidenced by their recently being awarded the Illinois Sustainability Award from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois for the second year in a row. Notably, LRS is the only waste hauler on the list of 27 Illinois-based companies. In Glencoe specifically LRS’s commitment to suitability shines through in their use of a compressed natural gas (CNG) garbage packer which was put into service in Glencoe early this spring. They also actively support our recycling and other green efforts, with programs like the new curbside food scrap compost collection. This helps bolster Glencoe’s impressive 37% waste diversion rate (second only to Kenilworth amongst all 23 Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) communities).
For the Public Works Department specifically, the move to LRS has allowed for employees who formerly collected garbage to move into new roles in areas that needed additional attention. Over the course of the past year, those employees have made meaningful contributions at the Water Plant and in addressing sanitary sewer maintenance (cleaning over 658,000 linear feet of sanitary sewers—nearly 528,000 linear feet more than last year), storm sewer cleaning (cleaning over 89,000 linear feet of storm sewers—nearly 76,000 linear feet more than last year) and manhole cleanings (cleaning over 1,150 manholes—over 580 more than last year). They have also contributed to the street sign replacement projects (making sure they meet modern standards for reflectivity and visibility). Financially, the move to LRS has been beneficial to the Village in a number of ways. As you’ll recall, one of the major factors in making the decision to outsource this service was the significant cost of providing it in-house, including an expected $1.5 million in investments in equipment in the coming few years. Rather than incur that cost, we instead were able to sell our garbage fleet (which generated over $175,000 and shrunk our overall fleet size by over a quarter. And because we were able to reallocate staff into other purposes, we are able to be better stewards of our infrastructure.
As with the garbage collection program, and as part of our new Strategic Plan and the annual budget development process, Village staff and I will continue to evaluate our programs and practices to ensure we continue to live up to the legacy of service that has been the hallmark of our organization for generations. It’s important to us that our organization be recognized not only for providing high levels of service to our community, but also for being efficient in the delivery of those services. Your tax dollars create and maintain the Glencoe we all love; it remains our privilege to be stewards of those dollars in service to you.