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IOWA CITY

Iowa City neighborhood 'livid' over proposed changes to waste pickup

Peninsula residents unhappy with plans for curbside collection

Garbage and recycling containers are stacked outside a house in the Peninsula neighborhood in Iowa City. (Lee Hermiston/The Gazette)
Garbage and recycling containers are stacked outside a house in the Peninsula neighborhood in Iowa City. (Lee Hermiston/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Residents of an Iowa City neighborhood are “livid” over the city’s proposal to issue trash carts and require curbside pickup, a departure from a decades-old policy.

A July 1 letter to households in the Peninsula neighborhood informed them that waste carts would be issued to 115 households and that the city would be switching to curbside waste and recycling pickup for those residences.

The neighborhood, located near downtown, was designed with garages facing narrow alleys where waste has been put out for pickup in accordance with a development agreement set in place in the early 2000s.

However, that arrangement has been difficult for city workers, said Jennifer Jordan, resource management superintendent for Iowa City.

“The issue was that, while the neighborhood is beautifully designed, it makes for a really challenging collection because of the size of the trucks,” Jordan said.

Because the city’s collection trucks are too big to navigate the narrow alleys, city workers are forced to remove garbage from 35-gallon trash containers by hand. The trash is deposited into a “glorified pickup truck” small enough to service the alleys, Jordan said.

“The staff is throwing that all by hand,” she said. “It’s inefficient. It makes for an unsightly mess.”

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In a letter to Iowa City Manager Geoff Fruin, Peninsula Neighborhood Homeowners Association President Adam Pretorius said the association board received “dozens of livid responses” from residents affected by the shift in policy.

“This change in procedure will create a number of unintended burdens and problems for residents, which may not be immediately apparent to persons living outside the neighborhood,” Pretorius wrote.

Pretorius — who lives in an area not affected by the change — told The Gazette because of how the alleys and homes are designed, some residents will have to move their waste carts down the alley, around the corner and back up the street to place it in front of their homes. In some cases, that means pulling the carts uphill, Pretorius said.

One resident would be required to move the carts 646 feet to put it in front of their home.

“There were concerns for logistics, for convenience and from a health standpoint,” Pretorius said. “We believe there are other solutions we can explore.”

Pretorius said the most expensive option would simply be for the city to buy a smaller collection truck that could maneuver in the narrow alleys. Other potential solutions include creating a common pickup locations for residents or widening the alleys, he said.

As the neighborhood already has a variance from many city codes, the most extreme solution would be to be a complete variance from the city and hiring a private collection serice. Buildings with five or more units in the neighborhood are served by a private company.

“That would be our last alternative,” he said. “That’s not what we’re in favor of.”

Citywide, about 200 homes are not using the standard waste carts and 20 to 25 homes recently transitioned to carts, Jordan said. About 40 homes around the perimeter of the Peninsula neighborhood have carts and are picked up with regular service trucks.

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“We’re trying to get as many customers as we can” using carts, Jordan said. “Most of those folks have had carts for well over a decade.”

In response to the pushback from the neighborhood, the city has hit pause on delivering carts for now. City staffers are to meet with Peninsula representatives Wednesday to discuss options.

Jordan said they’ll go into the meeting with an open mind.

Pretorius — who said the neighborhood has enjoyed a successful partnership with the community — also is looking to a mutually beneficial way to address the issue.

“We look forward to working with the city to develop a solution that works for everyone,” he wrote in his letter to Fruin.

• Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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