2014-09-04 / Front Page

How to bash trash?

City mapping strategy for cleaning up Port Aransas
Dan Parker
Reporter


Port Aransas Public Works Department workers Joseph Arzola, left, and Dakota Murdie lift a beach trash can to dump it in a garbage truck near the southern city limits on Friday, Aug. 29. Addressing beach trash is one of many facets of an anti-litter initiative that Port Aransas city staff is putting together. 
Staff photo by Dan Parker Port Aransas Public Works Department workers Joseph Arzola, left, and Dakota Murdie lift a beach trash can to dump it in a garbage truck near the southern city limits on Friday, Aug. 29. Addressing beach trash is one of many facets of an anti-litter initiative that Port Aransas city staff is putting together. Staff photo by Dan Parker Let’s talk trash.

Port Aransas city staff is in the process of putting together a proposal for a broad-ranging anti-litter initiative that could include establishing a panel of citizens and staff to continue rooting out solutions to trash problems, said City Manager Dave Parsons.

It also could mean bolstering street sweeping, adding attractive new trash cans downtown and expanding the city beach trash pickup into Nueces County’s I.B. Magee Beach Park, plus more, Parsons said.

Parsons said at press time that he still was in the process of formulating the initiative. It is subject to additions and other changes before staff presents it to the city council at its next regular monthly meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 18.

Whether a ban on plastic bags will happen will be up to the council, Parsons said. The question was a hot topic, attracting numerous citizen speakers when the council first took up the matter earlier this year. The council appeared to be split on the matter and ended up asking staff in April to put together an initiative that wouldn’t just attack plastic bag litter but all kinds of refuse in town.

Asked recently what direction he thinks the council might go on plastic bags, McMullin said he didn’t know.

“I don’t think it will be a slam-dunk,” he said. “It will be a close vote.”

Some groups in town have been keenly anticipating council action on the plastic bag issue and on litter in general. The Skip the Plastic Port Aransas organization has circulated hardcopy and online petitions calling for a ban on plastic shopping bags at the point of sale.

The petitions have garnered a total of 955 signatures, according to Colleen McCue, a member of the Skip the Plastic Port Aransas steering committee.

The Keep Port Aransas Beautiful (KPAB) group has come out in favor of a ban. Julie Findley, chair of KPAB, said her organization wants to support the city on its broader initiative, too.

KPAB also is talking about mounting a public awareness campaign and is applying for a grant to obtain a large number of reusable tote bags and give them away in an effort to keep plastic bags off the streets and the beach, Findley said.

The University of Texas Marine Science Institute Green Team “is in favor of the city moving toward more environmentally friendly regulations,” said Katie Swanson, president of the Green Team. “If that means banning plastic bags, then yes, the Green Team would be in support of that.”

While the plastic bag issue remains a question mark for the city council, city staff plans to propose an attack on litter on a variety of fronts.

I.B. Magee Beach Park

City officials are planning to talk to county officials about trash collection at I.B. Magee Beach Park in Port Aransas. It’s a county facility that lies inside the city limits.

By agreement, the city does seaweed collection and beach road maintenance at the park, and the county reimburses the city for the work. Now city staff is talking about entering discussions with the county about doing trash collection there too, Parsons said.

The city several months ago put plans in motion to put out bigger garbage cans throughout the city’s beaches. It might be a good idea to do the same thing at I.B. Magee Beach Park, Parsons said.

The city beach

The city has purchased a new garbage truck especially outfitted for driving on the sand and lifting the new receptacles with a robotic arm. Officials had hoped to get the truck and the new garbage cans by this summer, but the truck hasn’t arrived yet. They’re now looking at receiving it and putting it in service this winter.

Right now, the city has open 55-gallon barrels serving as garbage cans along the beach. They’ve been known to quickly overflow with garbage on big summer weekends.

The barrels are set to be replaced by 300-gallon toter style garbage cans with lids.

Each garbage station along the beach has two 55-gallon barrels. The stations will go from having 110 gallons of total capacity to 600 gallons, Parsons said.

The city also wants to “bulk up” up its recycling program on the beach, Parsons said. It has 12 stations, each with two 55-gallon barrels for aluminum cans and plastic bottles. How much the program might be bulked up hasn’t been determined.

A panel

Parsons said it might be a good idea to establish a panel of citizens and city staff that could meet periodically and discuss how to tackle litter problems. He said it could be composed of eight to 10 people, but it likely wouldn’t be a permanent group.

Parsons said he would plan to be a part of the group, and so would Rick Adams, the city’s director of planning and development; and Public Works Director Johnny White.

Downtown

The city’s overall plan of attack on litter also could include putting up “good-looking” trash cans downtown in what could be a public-private venture, Parsons said. Right now, there is no string of commonly owned trashcans with a consistent look downtown, though some individual merchants have some of varying appearances in front of their businesses.

Parsons said details of the downtown trashcan idea could be hammered out by a panel of citizens and city staff.

Hot spots

Public works employees already go out each week and pick up trash by hand along the beach and on State Hwy. 361.

Parsons said he’s looking at concentrating efforts harder on places where litter tends to accumulate the most. That tends to be within 200 yards of where State Hwy. 361 intersects with beach access roads, he said.

Businesses that produce the plastic bags, drinking cups and other products that commonly become litter could be asked to take part in cleanup efforts near their locations, Parsons said.

Wetlands

The city might try to come up with a system for getting trash out of wetlands such as those along State Hwy. 361, Parsons said. But that idea will require some thought, he said. City employees and volunteers shouldn’t just walk into wetlands on private property without permission of the landowner, he said.

People also would have to find a way not to disturb the ecologically sensitive areas where simply walking through could present a problem.

Street sweeping

Street sweeping could be done more, Parsons said.

It’s done only May through September right now. It’s not done more because of the expense involved, the city manager said.

Dunking junk and more

The city would continue working with KPAB and Republic Services (the business that contracts with the city to do curbside garbage and recycling pickup) to run Dunk your Junk days.

During periodic Dunk your Junk Days, Port Aransas residents are allowed to haul their junk to the city dump and dispose of it without having to pay the normal fee involved.

A future possibility: City staff could work with Republic to establish a household hazardous waste disposal day, Parsons said. Right now, Port Aransas residents don’t have a place in town where they can safely and legally dispose of household hazardous waste such as old cans of paint, paint thinner and similar materials that tend to accumulate in the cabinets and garages of people’s homes.

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