Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Talkin' Trash Too

DeKalb County has finalized their plans to convert all garbage pickup to one day per week for all items - trash, recycling, and yard debris.

Here's the bottom line

  • The issue was cost:  delivering pickup service without raising taxes/fees.  
  • Workman's comp costs are reportedly down, along with on the job injuries due to the new mechanical "dumpers" on the backs of the trucks and the new county-issued trash cans.
  • No one is getting laid off or fired; workforce reduction is via attrition
  • Sanitation is promoting additional recycling for their benefit as well as the global "green" initiatives;  recycling materials is not a cash cow for the department but it does reduce trips to the landfill that will reportedly keep it open for another 70 years.

That's the party line coming from County government.

This is the business card of Tony McBride who visited the March DHA meeting to talk about the transition.  Helluva nice guy and faced all kinds of questions head-on.  Councilman Terry Nall brought up difficulties he heard from his constituents.  Trucks too early or too late.  Items not getting picked up at all.  Difficulty maneuvering the new cans.  He's heard it all, and I imagine so has the rest of City Council.  Tony said in this meeting that if a resident has any kind of difficulty with their collection, or they need assistance to give his office a call and he will see to it that it gets worked out.  Numerous anecdotes have come out about residents on steep lots who cannot get the cans up and down safely, residents who are disabled and can't move them at all.  Tony's contact is above:  give him a chance to help fix the problems.

Now for the up-close-and-personal perspective on this new normal.

With one-day pickup, that means more trucks are on the road on that particular day, all at the same time.  I see the new process on my front porch with PJ waiting for his school bus.  Keep in mind our subdivision's streets are very narrow:  3 passenger cars wide, at best.  No sidewalks. Two cul-de-sacs, one on a steep hill.  It's spring so neighbors have their contractors lining up their vehicles to begin work.  Carpools are coming and going for school and work.  In the midst of this activity around 8:30-ish, the first garbage truck comes down the street.  Closely followed by the SECOND truck.  So two garbage trucks are do-si-do-ing around each other and the other vehicles in the neighborhood to make their pickups.  Here's the photo if you don't believe me:

Then in the midst of all this maneuvering, PJ's school bus shows up and joins in the dance.

I'm filing this under "new normal" because I can imagine Tony looking at the vehicle and route scheduling and saying "Welcome to my world."  To the credit of all the drivers involved, nothing was bumped, scratched, run over, scattered, or left behind.  They even picked up my old garbage can and carted it off as trash itself  when I flagged them down - complete with bed hair, pajamas and slippers.

Next concern is not so funny.

We all know that home business owners have to go several extra miles to prove that they are good neighbors even though there are extremely few complaints filed against them.  Homeowners are assessed $265 per year for trash pickup.  However, homeowners with a home business permit in good standing, are assessed $400 per year.  I confronted Tony with this fact and he just acknowledged it as a matter of course.  Even though Dunwoody requires home business owners of all kinds to ensure that their homes remain residential in nature, even though there is no change in zoning designation, the very fact that a home business permit exists is enough for DeKalb County to override Dunwoody's zoning and permitting process and classify the property as "commercial".   It has nothing to do with the amount of trash being produced or the zoning designation of the residence.   Hence the additional fee is tantamount to a fine for working from home.

Both Commissioner Jester and State Senator Millar heard this presentation and both agreed that home business owners in Dunwoody and across the County are being unfairly penalized by this fine. I don't intend to bother with Dunwoody City Council on this iissue.  Three of them are openly hostile to home business owners and they're perfectly happy to see them get screwed.  But it still presents a problem for Dunwoody government:  additional arbitrary fines may be enough of an incentive to not seek business licensing.  And many of the other regulations are easy to ignore for residents who are already conscientious of their neighbors.

Hopefully Commissioner Jester can take some action to eliminate this penalty.

Bottom line - no fooling - Sanitation is one of the few departments that DeKalb gets right.  The truck crews are heroes to the little boys on the street that love the big trucks and machinery.  They do a backbreaking job that is essential to living in our neighborhoods and most of us couldn't do it ourselves.  Most of all, I have never met an employee of this department that wasn't a lady or a gentleman.  Especially the guys who posed in the picture at the top of this post.

No comments: