TWIN FALLS — The city is scrapping a plan to move garbage collection from the alley to the street for about 2,400 residents after a deluge of complaints.
Trucks owned by the city’s garbage pickup contractor, PSI Environmental Systems, have struggled to navigate alleyways in winter. Compacted snow and ice, and low-hanging cables, have made access difficult and dangerous for truck drivers, said Bill Baxter, director of the city's utility billing services.
So after meeting with the contractor, the city decided to move the trash and recycling collection out of the alleys in certain neighborhoods. Homeowners received notices and mailers last week saying they should put their trash and recycling bins out in the street for garbage pickup; there would be a two-week transition period.
But residents complained that having bins in the street created problems for them. The city is now telling homeowners to disregard those notices and resume putting containers in the alleys for collection.
“It was evident from early on that we needed to evaluate it,” city spokesman Joshua Palmer said.
The city will now reconsider which alleyways are causing the most problems, and how homeowners should be contacted.
“The response by those affected by the change prompted us to reconsider the move and to return to collecting garbage and recycling in alleyways until further notice,” Baxter said in a statement. “We apologize for the inconvenience and ask that residents who received the notification to please continue garbage and recycling collection as they normally do.”
Sid Vanderpool said in his neighborhood and in other older parts of town, a lot of the residents are elderly.
“There’s nothing worse than seeing an elderly person trying to make their way out to their car, let alone dragging a huge bucket, through snow,” Vanderpool said.
The alleys behind the houses are closer than the street for many of these residents to use for trash drop-off. But on Sunday night, they hauled their bins to the front of their homes, clogging the narrow street with cars parked on both sides.
When Vanderpool got home on Monday, his trash pickup day, there were three trash cans blocking his driveway.
“When (PSI) dropped them off, they were all over the place,” he said.
In nearly three decades at his home, he has never noticed the alley being a problem for the trucks.
“They’ve picked up the trash flawlessly in the alleyways,” Vanderpool said. “They’re the alleys that they’ve gotten in and out of for 28 years.”
He was satisfied when an email to City Manager Travis Rothweiler was answered with the announcement that the city would re-examine its decision.
The city relies on its contractor to make judgement calls on service, Baxter explained.
“They alleys have historically been the collecting place because they were there,” he said.
But last winter highlighted some of the issues that have arisen since the garbage trucks grew in size. Sagging cables in the alleys meant drivers no longer had the clearance to get through, and they had to back the trucks out. Some alleys also have deep ditches beside them and are higher in the center. When trucks had to stop on ice, they would begin to slide off, Baxter said.
“Last year was a pivotal point for us,” he said. “It created a world of hurt.”
There have also been problems with people using others’ trash bins and dumping trash in the alleys, he said.
The city and PSI will have to address the situation, but they plan to proceed with caution. A limited number of alleys will have to cease as garbage collection points, but Baxter estimates the final list will affect no more than 100 addresses. Staff will talk to residents before making the change, but “there won’t really be an option,” he said.
Residents can have their questions and concerns about trash or recycling collection addressed by calling PSI Environmental at 208-733-4441 or the City of Twin Falls Utility Billing Services at 208-735-7249 or 208-735-7250.
“Serving the public is a rough road,” Baxter said.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with Bill Baxter's correct title.