A Change in Leadership

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Joanne Havel took the reins of Lone Tree’s city government Monday night.

In her first meeting as mayor, she made it clear that she is going to do things her way. That includes injecting a little humor in the meetings.

“I’m going to lighten it up,” she said.

Actually, Monday was her first meeting for this term as mayor.

“It’s been 18 years since, I’ve been sitting up here,” she said, referring to her stint as mayor in the early 2000s.

Havel learned the council meetings have become more formal since then.

The new mayor tried to move some of the items around on the agenda so that people who attended to make presentations did not have to sit through a long meeting to get to their agenda item.

That attempt did not get far. One of the first votes the council takes at each meeting is approving the agenda, which sets the order for items to be discussed. Several council members objected when she tried to move an item higher on the agenda for the discussion on the city garbage contract.

When they did get to the garbage contract discussion, the council approved a five-year contract for Johnson County Refuse to provide a cart system for collecting garbage in the city.

Each household will get two 65-gallon carts – one for garbage and the other for recycling. Currently households put their garbage in bags affixed with a sticker for pickup.

The new cart system will be more expensive. Under the current system, households pay $4.75 per month plus $1.25 for each bag of garbage. The new contract calls for each household to be charged $18.50 per month, a charge that will be included on the city utility bills.

Havel predicted there will be complaints.

“I think the combination with the water rates and this is going to be a big blow,” she told the council.

Water and sewage rates were raised last year to cover the cost of capital projects such as the state-required renovations on the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

There was a second bid submitted for garbage collection by WEMIGA Waste Systems. WEMIGA proposed a system with 95-gallon garbage carts and 18-gallon recycling tubs for $17.75 per household per month.

Johnson County Refuse owner Steve Smith told the council that many cities are going to the cart system, which allows trucks with automated arms to pick up each cart and dump it into the truck.

The cart system reduces worker compensation claims from injuries where workers jump on and off trucks and manually lift garbage bags and cans into the trucks.

Johnson County Refuse has been providing garbage service in Lone Tree since 2001.

The company, Smith said, will continue to provide trucks for citywide cleanup days, although that was not included in the contract.

“The citywide cleanup has never been part of our contract,” Smith said. “We’ve just done it.”

The new contract takes effect July 1. Smith said his company will begin distributing carts to households in the middle of June.

City Councilwoman Ruby Dickey noted that costs for garbage collection were going to be going up in Lone Tree.

“The cost was going to be going up no matter which one was chosen,” she said.

While the new mayor noted in an interview Tuesday morning that the new garbage collection system is a big deal, she said she plans to focus on little things to make the city better during her two-year term.

“I don’t have major plans,” Havel said. “I don’t have an agenda. I might have one by the time I’m done.”

She compared her outlook for the city to decorating a Christmas tree. The tree looks good, but “I just want to straighten the branches a little.”

One of those little things is looking at the ditch area in front of the American Legion building, which cannot be mowed. Havel wants to see if there is a simple fix for that problem.

Other things may need to be addressed.

One city employee told her: “There are some things around town, and we need to stop bandaging them and fix them.”

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