Garbage pickup schedule prompts complaints in Raleigh

ccampbell@newsobserver.comSeptember 18, 2013 

— Some Raleigh neighborhoods have been missing their weekly garbage collection after the city’s sanitation department made a major scheduling change.

In early September, the new schedule shifted trash days and recycling weeks for more than 43,000 households throughout the city. The new days represent the first major schedule change in nine years – a move made to balance crews’ workloads as the city adds new houses.

But the new routes for garbage collections meant that some streets missed their pickup. Dave Close, who lives on Brooks Avenue near N.C. State University, said he hadn’t gotten a collection in more than two weeks when the truck finally arrived last Friday.

“The trash containers were inordinately full,” Close said. “It kind of looked like the sanitation workers’ strike.”

Sanitation department leaders say crews have been working evenings and weekends, making extra trips to 400 households that complained they were missed.

“We’re trying to be customer-service friendly,” said Fred Battle, director of solid waste services. “If someone got confused, we’re still going to make the effort to go out and collect their garbage.”

Many of the complaints, officials said, stemmed from households that weren’t aware their pickup date had changed. Battle said he originally planned to send three mailings about the change, but budget cuts meant only one notice went out. This week, the department is using Wake County’s reverse 911 system to call residents with another reminder, and one more mailing will be sent.

Battle says the phone lines have occasionally gotten tied up in recent weeks, but the volume of complaints has dropped this week. “Everything has gone back to normal,” he said.

Confusion on both sides

While Battle said confusion was to blame for most of the calls, some neighborhoods that experienced problems didn’t have a new trash day. The Cameron Park neighborhood had a number of complaints: Garbage trucks came through but missed individual houses and entire blocks.

“It was even hard to figure out a pattern,” said Mike Lindsay, who lives in the neighborhood. “The trash would be gone from one side of the street and not the other.”

Battle said Cameron Park presents a challenge because alleys are used for trash pickup. Those routes don’t appear on the GIS maps crews use, so the new teams assigned there didn’t know where to go last week.

“We had to go out there and physically show them where the alleys go out there,” he said. “We have corrected that issue.”

The solid waste department is encouraging customers to double-check their pickup days online at raleighnc.gov/services; enter the street address under “My Raleigh Services.”

And while the cans in Cameron Park and on Brooks Avenue are empty now, Close said the city’s service isn’t what it used to be.

“We remember the days when your trash was collected twice a week, and they came and they took the barrels from your backyard,” he said. “Now you get your trash one day a week, if you’re lucky.”

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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