The city's move from alley trash collection to curbside pickup will take years to implement and will involve budget requests from the city council and public hearings before it's all done.
"We're doing the areas (now) where we have trouble," said Dave Mumford, the city's public works director.
The city has focused this year on dead-end alleyways that require garbage trucks to back all the way out after collecting trash, alleys that have narrowed or become moderately obstructed and other spots that have complicated collections.
It's a relatively small number of homes, Mumford said. One-third of the city uses alley collection. The rest of Billings has curbside service.
But for the long term, his department still will need to develop a plan for trash can replacement, request a budget allocation from the City Council and make sure the public has an opportunity to weigh in, he said.
It's a process that will take years, Mumford said. The city has 8,000 alley bins to replace.
Still, Billings residents who use alley trash collection have been vocal in their opposition to the plan. Earlier this week, a group of residents on St. Johns Avenue mailed a letter to the public works department demanding it leave their bins in place.
Others have called or emailed the city with their concerns and complaints.
"I am adamantly objecting to the discontinuation of alley garbage pickup," said Sylvia Basnett in an email to the City Council. "It would be a huge inconvenience to me, and I specifically bought a home to have alley pickup as I find the individual garbage receptacle so unsightly! Keep the garbage pickup in the alley where it belongs!"
Jim Foley, who lives in the North Elevation historic district, wrote in expressing his concern that curbside garbage cans would diminish the character of the neighborhood. He also told the city that the switch would be impractical for his home and for the homes of some of his neighbors.
"Front yard pickup simply cannot work for our house," he said. "We have no front driveway or garage; rather our garage and driveway are on the alley."
Carl Muthman wrote in, worried about how the change would impact elderly and disabled residents.
"The small roll-out bins can be a problem to move at any time for the elderly, handicap and disabled," he said. "But more so in bad weather and bad ground conditions usually encountered in winter."
Mumford explained that the city already has a program in place to aid elderly and disabled residents who request it. That would continue with the neighborhoods joining curbside collection.
Mumford also noted that in some areas of the city the alleyway bins may stay. Condos or smaller multi-resident housing buildings would likely keep their alley garbage collection. In those cases it makes more sense to have one large bin in the alley as opposed to a half dozen smaller cans that would have to sit on the curb in front of a single building, he said.
He assured residents that his office will be addressing neighborhood concerns as they come up.