March 27, 2013

City Will Move to Four Days of Trash Collection

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In response to a reduced demand for services and budget cuts, the City of Ithaca will transition to from a five-day to a four-day trash collection schedule starting April 1. Trash will be collected from Monday to Thursday, expanding routes and using crew workers on Friday for other maintenance services, according to Ray Benjamin, assistant superintendent of streets and facilities for the city.

“We got a report … that said we could be more efficient in trash pickup, and there was an audit by the state [asking us] to utilize our people better,” Benjamin said. “Instead of spreading out workers and averaging less than 40 hours of work a week, they’ll be working a full eight-hour day with the new schedule.”

The schedule change was discussed in November by the Board of Public Works and approved in January by Benjamin, Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 and Bill Ray, former superintendent of public works, according to Kathy Gehring, executive assistant of the superintendent of public works.

Alderperson Cynthia Brock (D-1st Ward) said the decision to decrease the number of trash collection days was motivated by financial considerations.

“This will assist in reducing the costs to the department and help streamline trash collection for city residents. There won’t be that many trucks on the road at all times of the night and day,” she said.

According to a press release by the streets and facilities department, Ithaca collected 94 fewer tons of garbage in 2012 than in 2011.

“More and more people are recycling. With increased composting and recycling, we have trash routes that don’t get filled as quickly. It made sense to expand routes on the fourth day and eliminate the fifth days and have those crews do other types of maintenance work. It’s a much better use of our city’s resources,” Brock said.

According to Brock, budget cuts have affected all of the city’s departments, including the streets and facilites departments.

“It’s a reality that budget cuts are requiring our departments to before creative, more efficient. We are asking our staff to do more with less. There are benefits that will come out of that, and there will be challenges that result from that also,” Brock said.

Even though budget cuts caused the streets and facilities department to lose staff, the schedule change will also make garbage crew workers available for work on Friday for utility patching, parades and barricades, according to Benjamin.

“We had to cut 10 percent of our staff, which we did by not replacing retired workers,” Benjamin said.

According to Benjamin, the garbage schedule changes will not affect recycling pickup because Tompkins County manages recycling for the city.

Benjamin said that the schedule changes will be implemented in a way that is considerate of the community’s needs.

“Residents and homeowners need to pay attention to their new week. We’ll give them a grace period of a month before we start fining people and writing tickets,” he said. “Change takes time, and this is the first schedule change in 30 years.”

He encourages city landlords to talk to their tenants about the schedule change.

“It may not be convenient, but we’ve been having cuts for the past five years. It’s hard times right now, but we’re doing without,” said Benjamin.

Brock said the schedule change is “a symbol of our success, in terms of working with the community to both educate them on the benefits of composting and recycling.”

“It represents how progressive our community is,” she added.

Original Author: Kevin Milian