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View hundreds of emails sent to city hall on sanitation department quandary

Sanitation worker picks up trash
Sanitation worker picks up trash

MASON CITY – Mason City’s mayor and city council were unable during this year’s budget cycle to provide the leadership necessary to make a decision on their own on whether to raise rates or fire employees in the city’s sanitation department.

Rather than call for a typical public forum – as they have in the past – to seek input from citizens, the mayor and council opted instead to disenfranchise thousands of citizens with no access to email or computers and sought feedback via email, feedback they said would shape their decision. This feedback would be hidden from public view, unlike a public forum, where all ideas would be aired for everyone to see and hear. Furthermore, the emails could be sent from anyone, even non-citizens. There is no way to tell if they are authentic. Persons could also create multiple email addresses and send a response from each one, thereby skewing the results.

In response to the secretive nature of Mason City government, NorthIowaToday.com sought all the email responses that were sent to the city of Mason City regarding the sanitation department issue. Citizens could select from one of four “options” and tell their elected officials how to govern (see those options below).

The city responded. They used 6 hours of staff time to print each email onto a separate piece of paper and then scan the hard copy back into a computer to create a very large PDF document. They also stripped all the names and email addresses out of the emails they received, and kept that data hidden.

NIT is providing the PDF document from the city for your download and viewing pleasure.

READ THE EMAILS HERE (18 MB file … may take several minutes to download)

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Option 1

Sanitation service will see a rate increase of $0.95 per month in FY 2016 and a rate increase of $0.45 per month in FY 2017. Two sanitation employees are retained and the service stays at the current level and method of pick up. The new revenue will allow the division to replace a truck each of the next five years.

Option 2

Sanitation service will see a rate increase of $0.10 per month in FY 2016 and a rate increase of $0.10 per month in FY 2017. Two sanitation positions are eliminated, reducing the number of trucks used in the non-winter months from three to two. With the reduction of one truck, the garbage routes will take longer to complete with the route being completed in the late afternoon. The savings from the reduction in employees will allow the division to replace a truck each of the next five years.

Option 3

Sanitation service will see a rate increase of $0.15 per month in FY 2016 and a rate increase of $0.15 per month in FY 2017. In addition to the general rate increase, the City will implement a charge of $0.40 per yard waste bag for this pick up. Stickers would be sold to adhere to each bag. Two sanitation employees are retained and the service stays at the current level and method of pick up. The new revenue will allow the division to replace three trucks over the next five years.

Option 4 (City selected this option)

Sanitation service will see a rate increase of $0.10 per month in FY 2016 and a rate increase of $0.10 per month in FY 2017. Two sanitation positions are eliminated reducing the number of trucks used in the non-winter months from three to two. The City will create two new swing worker positions that will split their time between Sanitation and another department. One swing worker will focus on Arborist work in dealing with trees that may be affected by the Emerald Ash Borer and the other swing worker will focus on work in the Water Department. With the reduction of one truck, the garbage routes will take longer to complete with the route being completed in the late afternoon. The addition of the swing workers however will allow additional staff to assist during high volume times such as fall yard waste needs. The department director would have the ability to shift the swing workers as needed to accomplish tasks. The savings from the reduction in sanitation employees and creation of swing worker positions will allow the division to replace a truck in four of the next five years.

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