Have you ever tried to persuade a bank to lend you the money to buy a bunch of trash cans? According to Asheville Finance Director Bill Schaefer, it’s not easy, even when you’re talking custom cans designed to be picked up by a semiautomated, new-fangled garbage truck being tested by the city this year. “A trash can by any other name still smells the same,” Schaefer joked on Nov. 16, when he asked for City Council’s approval of a trash-can financing plan.
According to the proposal, Crestar Leasing Corporation offered the city the best deal: 4.951 percent interest for five years on the custom cans, and the same rate for 10 years for the purchase of a pumper fire truck, Schaefer explained. That makes the total costs $163,656.25 for the cans and $195,574 for the fire truck. Despite the difficulty in getting financing for trash cans, of all things, the city managed to get a good deal, said Schaefer.
Unable to resist, Council member Chuck Cloninger noted while perusing the staff report, that the trash-can company’s name is the same as Schaefer’s.
“I don’t own Schaefer Beer … or Schaefer Trash Cans,” Bill Schaefer replied.
“Of the three [Schaefers], I think you should be relieved you don’t own Schaefer Beer. It’s not very good,” Cloninger replied.
On a slightly more serious note, Schaefer explained the pilot project for which the new cans will be used. The city will buy two “auto-reach sanitation trucks,” which have an automated arm that picks up the custom cans, then empties and replaces them. Although the project could save the city lots of money, the new equipment may not be suitable for all areas of Asheville, given the city’s terrain, Schaefer remarked.
A still-mirthful Cloninger piped up, “Hopefully, mailboxes and small dogs won’t be at risk.”
Council members indicated that they will approve the financing deal as part of their Nov. 22 formal meeting.
Don’t bash the Smoke
In a few short weeks, the aging Civic Center hit the Asheville Smoke hockey team where it hurts, twice: melted ice on opening night, due to a failing cooling tower; and, more recently, loss of lighting at about midgame, due to a short circuit in the center’s electrical system.
Don’t blame the Smoke, pleaded Asheville Mayor Leni Sitnick at City Council’s Nov. 16 work session. “I appeal to the community not to punish [the Smoke],” she said.
And Vice Mayor Ed Hay — who heads a Civic Center Task Force whose job it is to suggest improvement strategies for the facility, as well as plan for its future — reminded citizens that it’s no news that the Civic Center needs fixing up. “It’s a shame public awareness has been raised [about the problems] in this way,” said Hay, adding that Asheville has “no choice” but to address the facility’s needs.
Hay also emphasized how successful the ice-hockey program has been for the Civic Center:. “It’s working so well, we’re talking about a new facility. … We need to be open to that.” Hay has been advocating upgrading the Civic Center so it could handle more conventions, and trying to convince a private developer to build a hotel next door. The community, he said, should consider combining the two ideas to create a Civic Center that can serve as both convention facility and pro-sports venue.
That said, Sitnick emphasized: “The city taxpayer has, [for years], been subsidizing the Civic Center. [But] it is a county venue [and] a regional venue.” She noted that she gets letters and phone calls saying that the city needs to do something about the aging facility. “But we need help from [Buncombe] County, from the region, from tourists.”
Council member Barbara Field observed that Council had been informed, during the 1999-2000 budget discussions, that the Civic Center’s unfunded needs amount to about $1 million — including $300,000 needed for a new cooling tower. Field declared that she wants “some hard numbers” on the cost for a total fix, and demanded that staff provide a detailed breakdown of what’s needed in time for Council’s upcoming annual retreat, in January.
Council members made no further comments.