Sunday, September 30, 2012

Trash talk

Been a while since we posted here. Time to get back to work. Going to start off with excerpts from an email we received on the pilot program on automated trash collection.

First off, here are some key facts that are not widely known that our email writer thought were important.

1. The cans must be aligned precisely with the curb, or they will not be picked up.
2. The approach to the cans must not be blocked, or they will not be picked up.
3. you must use the cans provided by the trash company, no other cans will be picked up.
4. you will be charged a monthly "rental" of $12-15 for your can, in perpetuity, you will never pay it off, and the city keeps the profit from the fees, not the trash company. (this one really ***** me off)

Our writer goes on to say: " now in (my neighborhood) there is currently a pilot program with the automated system. The automated truck drives down the street, and picks up the cans. If there is a obstruction or the can is not aligned properly, a assistant hops out and fixes the issue, moves the can, etc.. Further, a regular trash truck FOLLOWS the automated truck, picking up odd-sized garbage, leaves, branches, etc, that does not get picked up by the automated truck. The kicker is that when the program is implemented, there will be NO ASSISTANT to the automated truck (IE there will be skipped cans) and obviously no truck following behind to pick up the leftover trash. this factor has not been announced to the general public, and the city plans to just spring it on everybody when the automated system is in place."

I think our writer is legitimately concerned. Two things stand out. First, even though this will likely save the  collection company and the city a considerable amount of money, there could be a net INCREASE in your trash collection bill for the "rental" of the special trash cans. As a consumer my total bill is what matters. It does me no good that my "trash collection" bill is lower if I have to pay more for a "rental fee." This is no good for me unless my ENTIRE bill is less.

The next point that stands out is that the pilot test, as the writer reports, is not currently being done the same way it would be implemented. I can understand them gradually shifting from the current system to the fully automated system. By now, they should have made all the pilot projects as close as possible to the way they will be if and when implemented. We need several weeks, at least, of collections where there are not extra hands or trucks following on. We, the citizens of San Angelo and the people who pay for this service, need to see in these pilot projects exactly what it will be like in the future. No smoke and mirrors. No additional fine print and "adjustments" after the deal is done. I'm not saying that Trashaway and the City Council won't do that but I've watched local politics long enough to know that we, the people, need to make sure it's done.