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Time to Be More Efficient and Fair in Refuse Collection

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By Rebecca Feldberg

As many town residents now know, Jim Houser was hired as the new director of our Public Works Department last month. He was immediately given the task of proposing ways to create greater efficiency with existing staff and to further improve the delivery of services. Fortunately, Jim has two decades of experience running a department of similar size. As the Chair of the Town Public Works Committee, I have worked closely with Jim to develop such proposals. At a recent committee meeting, several proposals were discussed. I have outlined them below:

Proposed Trash Collection Schedule: The town will be divided in half. One half will receive regular trash pickup on Mondays and Thursdays, yard waste pickup on Mondays, and heavy trash and metal pick-up on Thursdays. The other half of the town will receive regular trash pickup on Tuesdays and Fridays, yard waste pick-up on Tuesdays, and heavy trash and metal pickup on Fridays. Wednesdays will remain project days for the department and will also allow for schedule changes due to holidays.

Why ?: This arrangement will require a maximum of two three-person crews to collect trash at any time. It will free up a third crew to gather yard waste in a separate refuse packer or pick-up heavy metals on the alternate day. This will also ensure that other special projects, clean-up, maintenance work and town beautification can be done every day of the week, since waste gathering will involve only 60% of the work force any given day.

Proposed New Rules for Bulk Trash: Bulk trash will be defined as any item that cannot fit inside a 39 gallon trash can with the lid on. Things such as old floor lamps, chairs, broken televisions, are but a small fraction of "bulk trash." These items must be put out on bulk trash days only, or they will not be accepted. They need not be in covered containers. No individual may put out more than 3 cubic yards of bulk trash on any given day without paying a separate fee (Three cubic yards is a stack that is 3 foot high by three foot wide by nine feet long). A fee schedule will be established for people needing excess trash pick-up on any given day. These fees will range from $25 extra for up to 4 cubic yards, to $65 for up to 5 cubic yards, and $125 for more than 5 cubic yards (NOTE: This fee is actually less than the $200 per hour clean-up fee that is currently being charged). People with excess bulk (over 3 yards) should call the Public Works Dept. at 301-864-1803 and make arrangements for pick-up and payment in advance.

Why ?: Heavy or bulk trash slows up work crews. Every time excessive trash is placed at the curb, it requires pick-up routes to be delayed. Sometimes it even results in an inability to take the truck to the dump before it closes, thus posing a health hazard as the trucks sit with trash overnight or on weekends. The fee schedule is based on the amount of extra staff time, vehicle miles and extra dumping fees due to excessive weight.

Proposed Requirement that Household Trash to be in Covered Containers: Under the proposed rule, household trash shall be put in a sealed container. Containers up to 39-gallon capacity would be acceptable.

Why ?: Residents have been complaining about birds, raccoons and other animals getting into trash bags and creating a mess and a health hazard. Under current rules any commercial property with a dumpster must have it covered to prevent these problems. In addition, strong winds have also resulted in trash being strewn across streets. The reason for the 39-gallon capacity is that a can that size can be filled and be lifted by one person. Any size in excess of that poses a threat to employee health and creates a substantial risk of a job related injury. Such injuries result in employee absences and sometimes worker's compensation claims against the Town.

Proposed Fee Schedule for Specialty Items: Several items are not easily disposed of due to environmental regulations. However, certain processing makes them acceptable at landfills. At present, none of these items are accepted by the town, but the new proposal would allow curbside pick-up for a fee. The items and proposed fees are: used tire $2.50, dehumidifier $5.00, window sir conditioners $15.00, and refrigerator and freezer $25.00 a piece.

Seniors (persons 60 years or older) will be entitled to a discount up to 25% (to be set by Town Council)

Why?: Too often residents have called to get these items removed and have wondered why we cannot accept them. The town could only pick-up appliances when freon was removed by a certified technician and a certificate was attached. Tires must be taken to a separate disposal site and not mixed with other refuse items. However, the inconvenience to residents is real. Under the proposed fee schedule, these items can be picked-up curbside after the fee is first paid to the town. The proposed discount for seniors recognizes that there may be unique economic issues in these homes.

Separate Collection of Yard Waste: All yard waste is now required to be set out in a separate container, bag, etc. This will continue and residents are encouraged to use clear plastic bags to easily identify yard waste.

Why ?: Did you know that the dumping fees for yard waste at a facility other than the landfill is half the cost of dumping other trash? These items are later converted to compost and mulch for later use. The county landfill no longer accepts yard waste. As a result, we are now required to separate this waste (you can also compost these items on your own property). By using heavy-gauge clear plastic bags, these items can be immediately identified as leaves, weeds and grass clippings, and save time for work crews. The town now has the heavy-gauge bags on sale for $2.50 for a roll of 25. They cost a quarter of the price of the large paper bags and they are larger and more manageable. The composting facility also has a machine to separate the bags from the yard waste.

The above proposals will be discussed by the entire council at an upcoming meeting of the full town council. Please let the town staff or your councilmember know if you have an opinion concerning these changes. While change can be difficult, the failure to be flexible to the demands of the tasks can create great inefficiency. The objective of the town is to provide quality service to residents at the best price. As Chair of the Public Works Committee I welcome your input as we strive for excellence in our community.

Rebecca Feldberg is the Chairperson for the Public Works Committee and Ward 1 Councilmember.

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