2NEWS Investigators find city of Tulsa's trash program proving costly on year anniversary of change

TULSA - Tulsan Larry Walls said he's had problems with the new trash service from its start.

"It's been an ineffective service since they changed over," said Walls.

He said in addition to the problems the city's had with green waste disposal and missed pickups, his bill has gone up.

"When they started, it jumped about $10," said Walls.

Larry says the bill has stayed up, something he wasn't expecting.

"I was under the impression that as you got, as they got, into it more, it would lower our bill down," said Walls.

Here's how it works: You pay a rate based on the size of the cart you use. For curbside service the small cart costs $12.50 a month. The medium cart costs about $14 and the large 96 gallon cart costs $15.50 a month, but the city says you can save money by recycling.

The city said the more you recycle, the less trash you have, the smaller the trash cart you need and the more you save.

"The customer has more control under this program, not only in terms of option of service the customer may wish to choose, but also the more the customer recycles, the less residential refuse they generate and the smaller the refuse cart," said city of Tulsa spokeswoman Liz Hunt.

The 2NEWS Investigators wanted to know if the program is saving the city money. We went through the financial reports from the 2012 fiscal year, before the new trash program was in place.

We added up expenses for residential trash and green waste, which came out to $17.2 million.

Then we looked at expenses for the current fiscal year. We found trash and green waste are expected to cost $15.2 million, but remember the old service didn't come with carts or recycling, so when you add in those costs the total comes to $19.2 million for this fiscal year. It's a difference of $2 million more than two years ago -- enough to pay for 44 new police officers.

RELATED: City pays $1M in trash advertising campaign (http://bit.ly/18Ohthf)

"From an operations perspective, yes, it does cost more for the new program," said Hunt.

Still, the city says $1.6 million of that should drop off once the carts are paid off in 2020. Plus, the city expects to save half a million this year when you add in the rebate it will get for recycling and the savings from not having to pay to dump that recycled material.

"It's a completely different program from the unlimited pay as you throw program, which was not financially sustainable or environmentally responsible," said Hunt.

Larry agrees with the importance of recycling, but said he lost faith in the city's program. Larry said the city's mishap with the green waste program, along with other issues, made him lose confidence in the new trash service. Still, the city says it's working to ensure the green waste program works as it should and says all-in-all the service has been a success.

"It has been remarkable, and it's a tribute not only to those who planned this program launch, but to city staff and most importantly to citizens of Tulsa. They have responded so well to the program," said Hunt.

The 2NEWS Investigators are tracking your tax dollars. If you something you'd like us to look into, send us an email at investigators@kjrh.com .

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