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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - Dylan Curtis, left, and his co-worker John Sherrill, with Little Rock Awning untangle flags after installing a canopy at North Little Rock city hall on Main Street in that city, on Feb. 26, 2020. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/John Sykes Jr.)

The city of North Little Rock decided Monday to try to negotiate a three-year contract extension with Waste Management of Arkansas to continue providing residential recycling and curbside pickup service.

The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that states it's in the best interest of the city and its residents to continue curbside recycling services through a revised contract that would take effect in 2021.

The proposed contract extension would raise the city's recycling fee for residents from $4.29 per month to $5.39 a month and an additional $3.00 for each additional recycling container provided at a homeowner's request. The fee would increase each year until it reaches $5.78 a month by April 2023 and $3.22 for each additional recycling container provided to a residential unit. It would take effect in April 2021, when the current contract expires.

The Regional Recycling and Waste Reduction District Board of Directors, which includes six Pulaski County mayors and the county judge, voted June 11 to support the proposal and bring it before the participating cities of Little Rock, North Little Rock and Sherwood.

The three cities have until July 8 to choose whether to accept the contract.

Mayor Joe Smith said North Little Rock is the first city to approve the contract extension, but prices might change if Sherwood or Little Rock choose not to move forward.

"We have been working with Waste Management on this forever it seems like," Smith said. "We have to make some commitment. We think this is a very good price."

The new contract also adds glass, food and beverage containers to the list of recyclable materials.

"People in Ward 2 are really happy about now recycling glass,"councilwoman Linda Robinson said. "They were concerned at first, but the news about the glass eased that."

Smith said the final contract will be brought before the city council once the terms are settled.

City directors in Little Rock discussed the contract with Waste Management last week and some were skeptical.

At-large City Director Dean Kumpuris said it would be misleading to say the proposed contract included glass recycling, since Waste Management does not recycle the glass themselves and small pieces of broken glass end up in landfills.

"They're not going to recycle this glass. They're going to crush it, put it in their landfill and charge us more," Kumpuris said. "I'm ashamed to think that this is what we think of as a recycling program... If we're going to do this, let's buy some extra trucks and put everything in a bin and not worry about it."

Little Rock Public Works Department Director Jon Honeywell said the city could put out a request for proposals to find a different provider, but it would be cutting it close to the July 8 deadline.

If it didn't accept the contract proposal, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said the city's options would be to look for other alternatives, which could end up being more expensive than the one at hand, or to "go back to the drawing board" and look at the possibility of moving the service in-house, which comes with its own set of fiscal challenges.

In other business, Smith told the council a mask requirement is up to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

"We can only do what the governor allows us to do," he said. "It wouldn't be worth the paper it was put on. The one Little Rock did and the one Fayetteville did was worthless."


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