During the 2012 annual report of the Lansdale Communication Commission Monday night, Chairman Denton Burnell revealed that single trash hauler surveys were sent out to nearly 8,000 utility customers, with more than 1,700 coming back for review, or 21 percent of customers responding.
While the number may be one-fifth of the population of Lansdale, Burnell said that result is more than "statistically significant."
"For it to be statistically significant, for our population, it's about 400, even less than that," Burnell said. "There are some demographic considerations, but that number is so large against our basic population."
The borough is in the midst of assessing whether to move residential customers only to a single trash hauler. Now, residents choose from five main haulers: Republic Services, formerly Allied Waste; Interstate Waste Services, formerly Ches-Mont Disposal; Waste Management; J.P. Mascaro & Sons; and Horizon Waste Service.
The topic has started to become a controversial one: some residents don't like the idea of their freedom of choice being threatened, as expressed at a recent Lansdale town hall session.
In October 2012, the administration and finance committee revisited a $17,000 Gannett-Fleming Municipal Waste and Recycables Collection Study that never made it out of the public works committee in 2006.
The revisit of the single hauler was prompted in December 2011 by former Councilman Paul Clemente "for public safety reasons, for infrastructure reasons, for environmental reasons."
The survey was a result of that October administration and finance committee meeting.
The survey was available online — but could only be taken by verified Lansdale residents. It was also mailed out in borough utility bills, said borough Manager Timi Kirchner.
On Monday, in a joint meeting with the Economic Development Committee, the survey topic was brought up in an annual report, where Burnell said the members of the Communication Commission "recognized that public engagement helps to improve the quality of decisions made by the borough." The survey, he said, was a form of public feedback solicited from residents.
"Surveys were sent to nearly 8,000 utility customers and over 1,700 surveys came back for review, which, I think, is a substantial record for us with responses," Burnell said.
Communication Commission member Rick Murphy asked about statistics on how many people entered information online as opposed to mailing the survey in to the borough. Borough Communication Coordinator Tracy Flynn said about 500 surveys were taken online.
"A great majority came in paper," said Councilwoman and Economic Development Committee Chairwoman Mary Fuller.
"Even 500 is still a big response," Burnell said. "This wasn't like web surveys we've done in the past."
Of those that didn't respond, Burnell said they either didn't care or didn't focus on it.
Now, Flynn will be compiling the results of the survey. It will then go back to the administration and finance committee for discussion, Kirchner said.
There, the committee will review the results and determine whether to move forward with the idea.
"We have to look at what the results are and figure out what the general consensus is from the public," Burnell said. "It could be pretty nuanced. We have to be careful."
Read more on this topic:
- Talking Trash at Lansdale's Town Hall
- Committee Developing Resident Survey on Single Trash Hauler
- Lansdale Taxpayers: Take the Single Trash Hauler Survey
- Lansdale Council Talking Trash in 2012