October 24, 2001 11:00 pm

By Ray Linker

Observe Staff Writer

Are La Grande residents ready for curbside recycling? And at a cost of $3.50 per month on top of the $1.75 recently added to pay for a yard debris recycling program?

The city council will hear a presentation by Darin Larvik of City Garbage Service at a work session at City Hall at 6 p.m. Nov. 5. The meeting is open to the public.

As Larvik envisions it, a curbside program would provide customers a blue bin the same size as their green garbage bin. Customers would not have to separate recyclables but place them in the blue bin at curbside for pickup twice a month.

There are several reasons for starting a program of curbside pickup, which would be only for City Garbage clients, said Larvik. The private company serves between 90 percent and 93 percent of the citys households, he said.

One reason is the anticipated increase of traffic on Willow Street, where the garbage service is now and where it has large bins for people to deposit recyclables at all hours.

In addition to the ingress and egress problems with people who brings things to the bins, big trucks that come in to unload the bins cause traffic hazards because they have to block the street, Larvik said.

Weve outgrown the (Willow Street) depot, Larvik said. And when Cove Avenue closed (for reconstruction) the traffic was unbearable. There will be even more traffic when the new Safeway store opens. That is expected to be in early December.

Larvik said the amount of recyclables for La Grande has dropped while the rest of the state has seen an increase.

He said state law mandates that any city with more than 10,000 population have curbside recycling.

We got around that because the law does allow for an alternative program if we could show it is bringing in more recyclables, he said.

He said the Willow Street depot is no longer bringing in an amount equal to or greater than what is required.

To increase the amount of recyclables, the next logical step is to go to curbside. If we dont, we will move the large bins to the Materials Recovery Site on Highway 30. But that is too remote an area to leave open 24 hours a day, so we would make it available only during our office hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., he said.

Larvik said the companys overall plan was to move all its operations to the material recovery site, which it owns.

The company plans to be able to bale the material, unseparated, and ship it off to Portland, he said.

Neither Larvik nor Community Development Director Mike Hyde said they could predict how the city council would react, especially to the added cost.

I dont know if the council will go for this, Larvik said. Im giving them the option to buy into this because sooner or later something will have to change.

Hyde said, Its up to the council to decide. It might be a tough sell. The citizens survey indicated

people were fairly divided on the issue.

Fifty-four percent indicated they would be in favor of curbside recycling, but the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

But the survey was made before the $1.75 fee was added to each customers bill.

The yard debris program, where residents take yard trimmings to the recovery site on Saturdays and Mondays, was begun in August and runs through Nov. 30. It has been highly successful.

Another program, where any city resident can have tree limbs picked up at curbside, had a less auspicious beginning. Only six residents requested the service on the first day, which was Oct. 22. There are only three pickup dates remaining this year.

For details, call the city at 962-1305 or City Garbage Service at 963-5459.