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Residents: Don't trash bulk removal

December 23, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Twice a year for more than a decade, Hagerstown residents have been able to dispose of their unwanted appliances, furniture and other bulk trash items free of charge through the city's curbside bulk trash pickup program.

That might change - and city dwellers don't like it.

"You never know when you might need something big hauled away," said Gladys Henderson of East North Avenue. "We didn't have any other way to get rid of our old TV."

But with the city facing a tight budget this coming fiscal year, Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner and City Council members have asked Public Works Manager Eric Deike to explore other options for bulk trash removal within city limits. Hagerstown officials are mulling over scrapping or charging for a program they say has become increasingly cost-prohibitive, labor-intensive and ugly.

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"I'd hate to see it stop because it is a valuable service that we provide for our taxpayers," Breichner said. "We're just hoping to develop a way to control it."

It cost the city about $88,000 - primarily in labor costs and county dump fees - to operate the bulk trash program this fall, Deike said.

And it took city workers more than twice as long to remove bulk trash from some parts of Hagerstown, in part because employees had to haul away garbage and other items not intended for inclusion in the bulk trash program, Deike said.

Allen Kennedy waited for more than a week for city workers to remove the bulk trash he placed in front of his Virginia Avenue home, he said. But Kennedy would rather wait than lose the free service, he said.

"I'd like to see them keep it," he said.

Unfortunately, the tons of bulk trash that line city streets before being collected during the twice-yearly pickup service have triggered numerous complaints from visitors to Hagerstown, Breichner said.

"There is a tremendous amount of trash," he said. "Summit Avenue was really atrocious this year."

The trash stash is indisputably an eyesore, but some city residents fear the unsightly spectacle will become a regular problem if the free pickup service is curbed.

"We're concerned about the stuff accumulating because a lot of people in Hagerstown don't have transportation to get their trash to the dump or the money to pay the fees," said Bobbie Wiles of South Potomac Street. "I can see it becoming absolutely horrendous in our neighborhood."

A number of city residents have also complained that out-of-towners are dumping bulk trash within city limits for disposal - perhaps to avoid county landfill fees, Deike said.

"I can't prove that happened, but my gut feeling is that it did," he said. "It's people who are taking advantage of the program who are going to ruin it for everybody else."

Bridget Whittington took note of the extra trash - appliances and furniture that didn't belong to her family - in front of her Virginia Avenue home during this fall's bulk trash pickup, she said.

"It did seem like a lot more this year," she said.

City workers hauled more than 300 tons of bulk trash to the county landfill this fall - a hefty increase from the 126 tons of trash disposed of during the city's spring clean-up effort, said Deike, who attributed a portion of the increase to a new county requirement that all scrap metal be weighed at the dump.

City workers collected 155 tons of bulk trash in spring 2000, 170 tons in fall 2000, 150 tons in spring 2001 and 185 tons of bulk trash last fall, Deike said.

City workers are devoting up to six weeks a year to a trash removal program slated to take four weeks, he said.

"The employees can't get anything else done during that time," Breichner said. "It's just gotten unmanageable for the manpower we have."

Due to personnel limitations, Breichner said he doesn't hold out much hope for a proposal to pick up bulk trash by appointment for a fee. City officials have also asked Deike to explore putting the service out for bid, and to explore how other municipalities handle bulk trash removal.

In Chambersburg, Pa., the borough's sanitation department collects residents' bulk trash from the curbside once a year in the spring, said Bob Wagner, public works director. It cost about $47,000 and took workers about two weeks to collect approximately 100 tons of trash in early May, Wagner said.

Residents of Martinsburg, W.Va., can take their bulk trash to drop sites located throughout the city once annually during Martinsburg's "Take Pride in Your Community" program, City Manager Mark Baldwin said.

City workers will remove bulk trash items for elderly and disabled residents, he said.

The city of Frederick, Md., offers a free bulk trash pickup service three times a year, but doesn't collect items from apartment complexes and commercial buildings, Public Works Director Fred Eisenhart Jr. said.

Hagerstown officials will likely review Deike's recommendations in mid-January before making a decision about the future of the city's bulk trash pickup program, Breichner said.

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