Stan Jackson was irked that an orange city dump truck filled with discarded roofing shingles was parked in the driveway of a house just down the street from his home.
The home was getting a new roof and private workers were still on the job Wednesday.
"My neighbor called me and said, 'You see that truck parked down the street? They're doing a roofing job. With a city truck!'"
Jackson thought it was an unfair use of taxpayer money. He said he was angry because he was contemplating a renovation in his home that would result in a large amount of debris and had learned that rental of a steel refuse container from a private company would cost about $200 a week.
But what looked like misuse of city equipment turned out to be part of a decade-old city program that allows property owners the use of the trucks and provides a city employee to drive them to a commercial landfill in Madison County.
The city negotiated free dumping for 750 tons of debris per year through its contract with Waste Management, said Mayor Ed Hagnauer. "And this really helps us because if we didn't have it people would be dropping off bags of trash and other stuff in the alleys" and on the outskirts of town, he said.
Hagnauer said building materials like shingles can be hauled away through the free use of the trucks but concrete chunks are prohibited. Old furniture items can be hauled away but not appliances like stoves and refrigerators. Commercial contractors are not allowed to use the service.
However landlords can use the service but on a limited basis, he said.
"I've gotten 10 or 12 calls over the years from people complaining that they saw a city truck somewhere in a private driveway. I understand. They just didn't know about the program."
After learning about the program's existence, Jackson said, "This is a fantastic program. I just didn't know. I think it's great."
Figures provided by Hagnauer showed that the city once exceeded the 750 tons free dumping limit several years ago but he couldn't pinpoint the exact year. But during that year, the cost for free dumping for homeowners cost the city $30,000 he said.
Several other larger metro-east communities provide opportunities through contracts with private waste management firms to dispose of large items but none contacted by the News-Democrat provided free use of a municipal vehicle.
In Belleville, residents can pay $45 that allows them to put out for removal a dozen 32-gallon trash bags as well as furniture like two end tables, a love seat or a sofa. Mattresses are also accepted. But not appliances and there's no free use of a city truck.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at email@example.com or 618-239-2625.
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2570.