By JOHN HOWELL Don't freak out if your trash or recycling doesn't get picked up until 7:30 p.m. It wasn't a mistake and it won't be that way for too long if everything works according to plan. As of this Monday, the administration - with the help of the
Don’t freak out if your trash or recycling doesn’t get picked up until 7:30 p.m. It wasn’t a mistake and it won’t be that way for too long if everything works according to plan.
As of this Monday, the administration – with the help of the Municipal Employees Union – implemented split shift collections for at least the next four weeks. The collection schedule hasn’t changed, so place the bins at curbside as usual.
As explained by Mayor Frank Picozzi and Walter Hartley, president of the Municipal Employees Union, the existing crew will be divided into two shifts. The first shift will start at 5:30 a.m. and work to 1:30 p.m. The second shift starts at 12:30 and works until 8:30 p.m.
Because of the city’s aging fleet of trucks, multiple breakdowns and delays in the delivery of new trucks, as few as seven trucks have been covering daily routes that had been routinely covered by 14 trucks, the mayor explained. This has resulted in 14, 15 and even 16 hour days for some drivers and pickups being made as late as 10 p.m.
It’s prompted inquiries from residents wondering if collections are going to be made that day and an escalation in overtime costs. The plan, as Picozzi said in a Facebook post Friday will reduce overtime costs “and give our drivers some normalcy in their lives.”
The split shift, the mayor said, would also provide a breather for Department of Public Works’ mechanics. In his Facebook post the mayor said the department is still down a couple of mechanics “so repairs to our old fleet is taking much longer.” With an extended period for collections, and as new trucks come on line, mechanics will have more time to fully make repairs rather than just “patching up” a truck to get it back on the road.
Hartley said the first thing crews coming in at 5:30 a.m. will do is drive their truck to the state landfill and recycling center to empty it from the previous afternoon and evening collection. They will then do their routes and return to the city yard where the afternoon drivers will start their shift. They will drive the full trucks to the landfill before beginning their afternoon/evening routes.
Hartley said the shift and schedule was cooperatively worked out at the initiation of the administration. He praised the communication between the administration and the union and the mayor’s involvement.
“He’s a working man’s mayor,” he said of Picozzi.
Picozzi said the two new trucks the city ordered last summer were recently delivered, however, they didn’t work as designed. The mayor said representatives from the vendor would be here this week to get them properly running.
As a contingency if the city falls further behind on collections, Picozzi said the administration has arranged to use the transfer station on Jefferson Boulevard. He didn’t have the per-ton cost of using the station, but said he is seeking City Council approval of the arrangement.
By using the station, drivers would save the time of driving to the landfill and in some cases waiting in lines of 25 and 30 trucks to dump.
Hartley said the plan also provides for “floaters” – drivers not making sanitation or recycling collections – who would be doing large item pickups such as furniture that need to be scheduled with the sanitation department.
Asked why the city doesn’t permanently adopt a split shift system, Picozzi said he doesn’t want sanitation pickups to run as late as 8 p.m.
Last week, Picozzi was exploring the possibility of a city operated transfer station that would dramatically reduce dumping times and wear and tear on the fleet. For a period during the summer, the city dumped recyclables at the city compost station as a means of dealing with the lack of operable trucks. The recyclables were then bulk loaded and hauled to RI Resource Recovery in Johnston.
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