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City Blog

Jul 31

New ideas in the works as contamination diverts some city recycling

Posted on July 31, 2020 at 1:21 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

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Recycling is not always easy – Is this carton recyclable? Do I have to wash this jar with soap? The challenge has increased in recent years as China – a major importer of recyclable materials – has become stricter with which materials they accept, and the level of contamination allowed.

Right now, China will accept loads of materials with a maximum 0.5 percent contamination. Contamination is, for example, recyclable items packed in plastic bags (plastic bags are NOT recyclable curbside), or wet items that have dampened and rotted cardboard in the same load.

By comparison, the City of Battle Creek currently faces a 30 percent contamination rate in some neighborhoods.

This has become a serious issue in city curbside recycling and, in March, Waste Management reached out to us with concerns about that contamination rate. The result is that the Holland facility that processes our recyclables started rejecting many truckloads from Battle Creek; WM has passed on that cost to the city, at roughly $1,650 per truckload.

WM found the highest contamination levels in loads collected from neighbors with Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday pickup service, and they began diverting those loads to the landfill to avoid the rejection and cost. They anticipated this would be temporary and, as part of a January 2019 amendment to our contract with management, they may divert contaminated loads without notice.

After that March discussion, we planned to start an aggressive educational and outreach campaign, so we could help neighbors return to recycling Monday through Wednesday. However, the COVID-19 pandemic struck days later.

The city has faced staff reductions, and in-person education opportunities are extremely limited. This has left the recycling-to-landfill diversion in place to this point. Our Sustainable BC Committee recently discussed this issue – you can view the meeting here, on the city's Facebook page – and we received feedback that we should share the diversion issue with the community as soon as possible.

We agree.

Our environmental team has fully returned to work, and is working with other staff on education and outreach that is possible during the pandemic, to help everyone recycle again. They have taken recycling education to the Battle Creek Farmers Market, and appeared on the June episode of our AccessVision program, Keeping You Informed. You can watch that show on demand at http://accessvision.tv/file/18630.

We cannot continue diverting recycling to the landfill, and paying the accompanying fee – it is not environmentally nor financially friendly.

We have some work to do.

We hope to start focused education in the affected neighborhoods, and discuss additional options, like asking neighbors to opt into a recycling program to keep their carts; amend our garbage ordinance to allow cart audits by city staff, for on-site education opportunities; work with WM on a tagging program, leaving contaminated carts and tagging them with that reasoning; and more.

Our current WM contract ends next spring; we will being the process this fall to seek a new contract. We anticipate introducing an amendment to our garbage ordinance this August to improve our next contract. Ideas include the opt-in recycling program; hauler-provided trash carts; eliminating single-stream recycling to reduce contamination; and more.

In the meantime, please keep these tips in mind:

  • Items like vacuums, clothes, diapers, toys, paint cans, dirty food containers, and plastic bags are not allowed in our curbside carts.
  • Please make sure your items are clean and dry when they go into your city cart. Keep the lid closed to avoid rain/water getting inside.
  • Items must be inside the container; drivers will leave behind a cardboard box placed next to your cart, because our WM recycling trucks pick up the carts with robotic arms.
  • Visit battlecreekmi.gov/recycling for much more information.

We know this is frustrating news, especially for our devoted recyclers. Despite the COVID-19-related delays, please know we consider it a high priority to get the recycling program back on track.

If you are in an affected neighborhood, we encourage you to keep recycling, if possible, by dropping off your materials to Waste Management’s Springfield facility, at 4547 Wayne Road. There are additional drop-off opportunities at the Marshall Recycling Center, and C&C Landfill – visit battlecreekmi.gov/recycling and calhouncountyrecycling.com for more information. The county’s page includes an interactive map.

We appreciate everyone’s patience and attention to recycling – we believe in Battle Creek, and in recycling. You can share questions and feedback to publicinput@battlecreekmi.gov, or 269-966-3355 ext. 1878.. We will continue to share updates as the recycling situation changes.


Jun 11

A message from Police Chief Jim Blocker

Posted on June 11, 2020 at 10:21 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

Our community – rightfully so – wants an explanation for recent police actions, but I cannot explain the inexplicable related to the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. The nine minutes is inexplicable, and so is the lack of response from the officers present. I am disgusted, and these actions at the Battle Creek Police Department would be unacceptable.

Understandably, we hear calls for police policy review. Policy has never changed culture; if an agency with great policies suffers from an out-of-date culture, it will not achieve the results communities demand and deserve. An agency with dated policies, and a poor officer development program, performs even worse.

Policies should be fluid, dynamic, and reflect the community’s values, to uphold the highest levels of ethics and professionalism, while protecting the community and its police officers.

Just over one year ago, in March 2019, the BCPD became one of only 16 law enforcement agencies across the state (24 agencies today) to achieve full state accreditation with the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. This two-year process affirms that the BCPD voluntarily meets best practice standards, and complies with 105 MACP required professional standards.

During this process, we modified department policies, developed necessary procedures, and provided evidence to the MACP to show that the BCPD meets the required standards. They result in great accountability within our agency, reduced risk and liability exposure, increased community advocacy, and more confidence in our ability to operate efficiently and respond to our community’s needs.

To keep our state accreditation, we review our policies each year. We engage our community through programs like the Citizens Police Academy, Police Explorer Program, Cops and Clergy meetings of our faith-based leaders, Neighborhood Planning Councils, and others. Unfortunately, some of these programs are on hold, as we face budget challenges related to COVID-19. We know we need further and continued review by our community.

We have created excellent programs to serve our community outside the criminal justice system, like the Crisis Intervention Team for mental health crises, the Fusion Center, Trauma Informed Policing, the Domestic Violence Unit, and the Victim Advocate and Violence Intervention programs.

Our openness remains one of our greatest strengths, as well as our willingness to learn, grow, and try new and innovative approaches. A discussion about police use of force requires more discussion than a statement. I look forward to an open dialogue continuing in our wonderful Battle Creek community.

Chief Jim Blocker
Blocker_Aug2014

Mar 10

2020 Census: City neighborhoods story

Posted on March 10, 2020 at 4:43 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

The City of Battle Creek is an entitlement community and, in this case, it’s good to be entitled.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development started this grant program in the 1970s, and that is when we first met the designation requirements.

What this means is that Battle Creek automatically receives a share of grant funds that help us do important work related to community needs, largely around housing.

Our eligibility for this program hangs on the fact that we have a population of at least 50,000. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Battle Creek’s 2018 population at 51,247. This is a story to demonstrate why it is critically important that we remain above 50,000. To get that on record, we need every household to complete the 2020 Census this spring!

BC Counts logo final

The census count happens every 10 years, and is essentially a head count of every person living in the United States. The Census Bureau uses this data to compile statistics about our population that inform government programs and their funding – including the HUD entitlement grants.

Battle Creek benefits from a number of these grants, determined by a formula:

  • Community Development Block Grant
  • HOME Investment Partnership
  • Emergency Solutions Grant
  • Public Housing Authority funds

Entitlement also makes us eligible to apply for other, competitive, grants through HUD and the State of Michigan. We have received:

  • $1.8 million for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 1
  • $12.8 million for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2
  • $350,000 Hardest Hit Fund Housing grants
  • $7.5 million Lead Hazard Control grants

The work we do with these funds benefits low- and moderate-income neighbors in Battle Creek. We do work to revitalize neighborhoods, improve economic development, and improve public infrastructure and services.

We do a range of activities to promote those goals, like inspecting and registering thousands of rental units in low-income areas, which helps ensure the properties are safe and liveable. We have rehabilitated hundreds of low-income senior citizens’ homes, and we run a Minor Home Repair Program for low-income homeowners who cannot otherwise afford repairs required to meet housing code standards. That program helps up to 50 households per year with health and safety, accessibility, and roofing projects.

Home before rehabilitation
Home after rehabilitation

We also have demolished vacant and blighted buildings around the city, and have purchased foreclosed homes and rehabilitated them to sell to low- and moderate-income families, thereby helping restore the market vitality in our core historic neighborhoods.

We are a responsive city government, working hard to understand our challenges and work on our strengths. These federal resources help us achieve a healthy and thriving community. If every person in our city is counted in the 2020 Census, this will help Battle Creek keep our entitlement status, and ensure that we can keep our momentum on efforts to revitalize our neighborhoods, making them strong, safe, and attractive places to live.