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Marion to resume twice-weekly trash pickup

Move is in stark contrast to Hillsboro’s one-worker, one-day robotic pickup

Staff writer

While Hillsboro is automating its trash collection and saving labor costs, Marion is expanding its manual trash collection and will resume picking up residential garbage twice a week, effective July 1.

“Maybe we made a mistake when we got a new truck,” Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said at Monday’s city council meeting.

Both Marion and Hillsboro recently purchased new trucks.

Marion’s is a traditional truck. Hillsboro’s has a robotic arm that allows a single operator to drive, pick up, and dump residential trash receptacles — a process he can complete for the entire city, by himself, in a single day.

In Marion, crews of two or sometimes three pick up residential trash by hand on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Council members voted Monday to go back to having crews pick up residential garbage a second time each week — on Thursdays and Fridays as well as Mondays and Tuesdays — to reduce the volume of trash picked up on any single day.

Supervisor Marty Fredrickson, who proposed the change, said it was “rare” for a city to pick up trash twice a week, “but it works for us.”

His hope is that a third worker no longer will have to be added on Mondays and Tuesdays because so much trash has accumulated with just one pickup per residence each week.

It was unclear how switching to two people spending four days a week (eight worker-days) would result in savings over having three people do it two days a week (six worker-days).

Asked after the meeting to explain, two different council members said they had no explanation.

It also was unclear how frequently three workers are needed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

While Frederickson seemed to indicate it was commonplace, city administrator Roger Holter indicated last week that it happened less frequently.

“Only when it’s extremely heavy do we need a three-man crew,” said Holter, who did not attend Monday’s meeting. “When the driver starts the route, he makes that call.”

The two-member crew now spends Thursdays and Fridays picking up residential recycling instead of trash.

A steadily dwindling amount of recycling being put out by Marion residents means the crew should be able to do all residential recycling pickups on Wednesdays, which had been used exclusively for commercial pickups, Fredrickson said.

This saving would seem to be what would allow the return to twice-weekly trash pickup.

But it also sends a wrong message, that Marion isn’t concerned about restricting the amount of non-recycled trash, council member Chris Costello said.

In Hillsboro, recycling is picked up every other week and soon will be done by the same robotic-armed truck that picks up garbage.

Both towns use their trash trucks the rest of the week for lifting and dumping commercial receptacles, often on a single day. When commercial pickup would be done in Marion was not explained.

Asked whether the two cities might be able to share a single robotic truck, which could easily handle all trash and recycling pickups in both communities with just one worker, officials from neither city indicated any serious discussion had been given to such a plan.

According to Heitschmidt, the reason Marion never seriously considered using a one-worker truck with a robotic arm — whether shared with Hillsboro or not — was that trash and recycling receptacles would have to be replaced by standardized containers.

“Do you want every little old lady in town to have to pay for a new trash container,” he asked after the meeting, “or do you want the city to have to pay for them?”

That’s exactly what happened in Hillsboro, where the city purchased and distributed standardized trash receptacles and soon will be providing standardized recycling receptacles — a project that, Holter said without offering specifics, would take along with the cost of a robotic truck, 10 years to pay for itself in Marion.

Those receptacles would solve two other problems that Marion council members noted at their meeting Monday.

Though ignored more often than obeyed, Marion’s regulations technically require that all trash be placed inside bags that in turn are placed inside containers with lids.

“We need to revisit that policy,” Heitschmidt said, “and either enforce it or get rid of it.”

At the same time, Costello asked why garbage had to be bagged instead of simply being placed in a closed container.

Fredrickson said bagging prevents blowing — just as securely fitting lids would — and makes it easier for workers to pick up trash without having to lift entire containers the way Hillsboro’s robotic arm can.

In the end, Costello was the sole council member to oppose resumption of twice-weekly residential pickup.

He also criticized Marion County’s policy of removing public trash receptacles outside the county waste transfer station when the station closes each weekend.

Only a single recycling bin is left for the public to use. Drop-off of other trash is not allowed, and any bins that could be used to collect such trash are removed.

“If they did have those, we might not need twice-weekly service,” Costello said.

Hours earlier, at a county commission meeting, commissioner Dianne Novak made a similar comment, urging the return of public trash receptacles over the weekend at the transfer station.

Transfer station chief Bud Druse answered by saying that when a trash container is left out over the weekend, it often is overflowing by Monday.

Novak asked whether adding more containers might solve this problem, but Druse seemed non-committal. No action was taken.

Other business

In other business Monday, Marion City Council:

  • Adopted a new schedule of city fees, which basically adds charges equivalent to staff members’ salaries for any research or review of records requests from the public.
  • Approved a social media policy that imposes civility requirements on citizens’ interactions via the city’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Basically, Heitschmidt told city employees, “don’t respond to negative posts.” Instead, he said, invite the citizen to discuss the matter in person at city offices.
  • Banned all remaining parking on the south side of narrow Santa Fe St. downtown, except on Sundays, starting July 1.

Last modified June 5, 2019

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