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Messing with bulk trash removal heats up city

December 31, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

You knew, you just knew, that of all the issues for Hagerstonians to get worked up about, the one that would resonate would be bulk trash removal.

Education? Who cares. Downtown revitalization? Never heard of it. But mess with our bulk trash pickup service, and them's fightin' words, mister.

Now, ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, I know that there are a lot of you folks out there in other states and nations who are reading this.

(No kidding, I've had people from Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia weigh in over the past year. How I got a niche market in Australia, I have no idea, but that seems to be the case - so far, however, these columns have apparently not been translated into Spanish).

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So somehow I need to explain the concept of "bulk trash removal," although admittedly, that's not an easy thing to do.

Hagerstown, see, apparently has the largest per-capita number of moth-eaten sofas, three-legged chairs, electric-motor-gutted refrigerators, nonworking washing machines and various other discards that do not fit into the average garbage bag.

Therefore, twice a year, the City of Hagerstown allows folks to set these monstrosities out on the curb, where crews of men eventually pick them up and take them to the dump. I say eventually, because over the years there has gotten to be so much streetside junk it takes city workers a couple of weeks to mop it all up. In fact, people from OUT IN THE COUNTY will haul their junk all the way into the city and dump it on a curb at 2 in the morning.

And for those two weeks the city takes on a truly inspiring appearance, sort of like Calcutta, only not as attractive. It's almost exactly as if every city dwelling has been turned inside out. The first time I experienced the bulk trash removal phenomenon, I thought everyone in Hagerstown had gotten evicted all at once.

So, saying it's cost-prohibitive, labor intensive and ugly, the city has proposed abolishing the bulk trash pickup program. And that has city residents furious.

There has to be a peaceable compromise, and Clear Spring contractor Mike Muir has an idea for one: Turn the event into a countywide, free yard sale. He writes:

"I think they would be surprised at how many people are carrying things home to put in their own house, loading trucks to go to the scrap yard where they get paid for it, or just gathering things for the needy. The way it's been set up, nobody is thinking one man's trash is another man's treasure. By the preset time for the community free yard sale to end, then the people that are paid to pick everything up will only cost half as much due to the success of the yard sale. You know me and my truck would 'shop 'til we drop.'"

There you go. Turn this into a positive.

I might even take it a step further, and say why not turn this into a full-blown street festival. Sort of like the Winter Carnival in Quebec City. I think people would come from far and wide for the first annual Hagerstown Bulk Trash Removal Days.

Come see the amazing inner city landfill! 1960-era TVs meet funnel cakes, what's not to like? Have a parade. The night before would be the grand Bulk Trash Removal Ball.

The next morning, a priest comes in for the Blessing of the Trash, then, much like they do in Spain, you would have the Running of the Trash, except in this case, I can envision thousands of people running through the streets seeking out the most bizarre item of refuse they can find, with prizes to be awarded that night as the culminating event in the Bulk Trash Removal Fashion Show.

Now see what a couple of good, commercial minds can do to solve city problems? If Mike and I put our heads together, who knows what solution we might find for the crows.

What's that? No, Australia, I don't have time to explain.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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