Pawtucket Council wants answers on trash problems

Pawtucket Council wants answers on trash problems

Wrong-way drivers, early pickups among the issues

PAWTUCKET - Few issues matter more to residents than how their trash is picked up, say members of the Pawtucket City Council, making it important that Mayor Donald Grebien's administration fix the problems they're seeing along city streets as quickly as possible.

At the top of the list of issues, said council members at a meeting last Wednesday, is the practice of workers from MTG Disposal driving the wrong way on one-way streets, a move they are seeing far too often.

Councilor Terry Mercer, of District 3, said he is worried that the practice is causing a dangerous situation for city motorists. In areas like Councilor John Barry's District 4, where there are likely more one-way streets than any other district in the city, the problem is especially pronounced, said Mercer.

Barry said he, too, is concerned, especially after hearing about those "damn big trucks" driving toward drivers who were headed the right way.

"Obviously they're going down one-ways the wrong way," said Barry. "We'll end up being liable."

Other council members were not as concerned. Councilor Albert Vitali Jr., a proponent of privatizing trash and recycling services, said garbage truck drivers had a habit of going the wrong way on one-ways streets for years back when sanitation services were run by the city.

A representative for MTG Disposal's operations division could not be reached for comment.

Dylan Zelazo, spokesman for Grebien and a director of constituent services for the city, said this week that he is "confident we will be able to resolve the issues that may arise," but noted that it's "difficult to respond" to specific issues when communications only come from the council at its bi-weekly meetings.

He will be reaching out to council members to address specific concerns, said Zelazo, and will also be providing them with another contact list and asking them to call immediately with any and all constituent concerns "so they can be addressed promptly."

"It's important to remember that Pawtucket is not the first (or) only community to go through a transition to automated pickup," said Zelazo in an email.

There have been some cases where trucks have had "no alternative but to go up the one way," said Zelazo, who noted that there is an internal analysis being done on all one-ways.

"There are a few exceptions and it is important for everyone to be aware that this is not the rule," he said.

Another concern brought up by the council last week was that MTG workers are leaving behind stickers asking residents to bring their bins to the other side of the street, something residents were not aware they'd have to do as part of the new sanitation program implemented this year.

Zelazo said that the practice of asking residents to move bins to an easier spot for the automated lift arm is "a policy that is followed in other communities," but "is not the current practice for Pawtucket."

Grebien's spokesman said he doesn't like to "speculate" about issues without the facts, but "it may be that the specific location poses a problem for the equipment.

"Once the specifics are provided it will be addressed," he said.

Mercer also noted that one of his constituents, a "devout recycler," was concerned after being told by city officials that she would have to pay $45 to get a second barrel for recycling.

"It seems outrageous" that there would be such a fee, said Mercer, especially since the extra recycling items will end up going in the trash, inflating the city's trash tonnage and reducing the amount of money it receives for recycling. So many residents turned in their larger recycling bins for smaller ones that it seems there should be a "stockpile" of extra ones for such a situation, said Mercer.

His constituent will have "no other choice" but to place recycling materials into her trash or pay the fee for a new bin, said Mercer. In his opinion, charging such a fee is a "penny wise and pound foolish" policy, he said.

Zelazo said that providing residents with extra barrels is "an expense to the city." Officials have established a 50/50 payment program for anyone who needs or wants a second barrel, he said.

Mercer is also concerned about calls he's received informing him that MTG trucks are being seen in neighborhoods earlier than their required 7 a.m. start time.

Zelazo said there are also exceptions to the 7 a.m. start time. The council is "well aware" of the exceptions, and "this is nothing that the city hasn't had to do even when the city performed the trash pick-ups," he said.

The move to a private sanitation service in Pawtucket "was a decision to reduce costs and improve efficiencies," said Zelazo. "That remains the focus and goal as we work through this transition. Quality collection services and great customer service are continuing priorities as well."

It would be "immensely beneficial" if residents and council members contact the Department of Public Works directly when they have an issue, said Zelazo. The number for refuse and recycling issues is 401-728-0500, ext. 232 or 282. Zelazo can be reached directly at ext. 268.