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City Beat: Council postpones info request for fear of info requests

The dais also approves a rezoning measure for north-side commercial development

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Springfield City Council indefinitely postponed a mandatory request for information from local trash haulers to help ferret out the future of residential refuse collection.

Council has discussed the city’s next move for residential trash collection in Springfield with a suite of measures composing a proposed bill to “pursue enhancements and stable funding” for the city’s integrated solid waste collection system, according to agenda materials.

The proposed bill includes the mandatory request for information from local trash haulers to better understand who serves which customers, as well as the official start of a 90-day outreach initiative questioning whether to scrap the current open-market trash system.

With a 5-3 vote on Jan. 16, council tabled the request for information process after learning data gathered from the request might be open to public records requests via Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

City staff advised the information could be collected in two ways from trash haulers: a list of residential addresses served or through a more anonymous grid of the city in which haulers indicate how many customers they serve per grid cell.

“This information would be requested on behalf of the city attorney, and we would do our best to ensure that each hauler’s information stays private throughout the study period,” City Manager Greg Burris told the council. “However, we are a public agency, and there’s no guarantees that the information would not eventually become public.”

Burris said the information would equate to having a series of residential addresses or rough locations that trash haulers serve. But it’s information some council members regard as private.

Councilwoman Phyllis Ferguson was the first to raise the privacy concerns.

“I don’t want someone’s proprietary information to be available through a Sunshine request,” she said. “I’m just not really comfortable to vote on this until I know.”

Councilwoman Kristi Fulnecky said the release of the information could prompt lawsuits against the city.
“If it was my company, I would challenge a statute that you have to give up private information and addresses and that kind of data,” she said. “I really think those are trade secrets.”

Council members Mike Schilling, Craig Hosmer and Richard Ollis voted against tabling the request for information. Hosmer said anyone could drive the city streets and see which trash hauler serves which resident.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who people are having pick up their trash,” he said.

With Councilman Tom Prater absent from the meeting, the body also voted on other attributes of the proposed bill that, in essence, aim to secure full funding for the city’s voter-approved waste management system, before existing city-landfill disposal contracts expire in April 2019.

The bill also officially spurred the start of a 90-day, city-run educational and public input campaign centered on whether the city should adopt a coordinated system for residential trash collection.

Under such a system, the city would be divided into sectors, within which licensed trash haulers would be bound, replacing the current open-market system for residents’ refuse collection. The educational and input initiative passed 7-1, with Fulnecky being the lone dissenter.

Fulnecky said she supported current residential trash operations, claiming that efforts to discuss a coordinated system are a waste of time and money. A final council decision to adopt or deny a coordinated trash collection system is forthcoming.

North-side rezoning
In other business Jan. 16, council approved expanded commercial space off of Kansas Expressway on the city’s north side.

Council approved the rezoning request from Kansas & Kearney Intersection Center LLC for about 5 acres previously zoned highway commercial and single-family residential in the 2300 north block of Kansas Expressway and Bolivar Road and the 1500 west block of Kearney and Turner streets. The rezoning expands highway commercial zoning farther south to Turner Street, establishing Conditional Overlay District No. 137, according to agenda materials.

James Tillman, the registered agent for Kansas & Kearney Intersection Center LLC and owner of Complete Electrical Solutions LLC, could not be reached to comment on the rezoning.

Tillman previously told Springfield Business Journal, however, that he and business partner Joseph Hulston are planning a retail center at the southeast corner of the Kansas and Kearney intersection.

The development, he told SBJ, could approach 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant tenant space.
Ollis praised the development.

“This is certainly an area of town,” he said, “that this council and the community in general have wanted to redevelop.”

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