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Published: Friday, 11/7/2008

Toledo council may rotate trash pickup over holiday weeks

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The city of Toledo is considering different ways to save millions of dollars next year, including an idea to radically alter refuse and recycling pickup to a system that would continually shift collection days during holiday weeks, a top city official said yesterday.

"We are seriously considering, and will most likely recommend in our [2009] budget, that your garbage day rotates when there is a holiday," said Robert Reinbolt, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's chief of staff. "In the past, we have worked weekends after holidays, and to save money we are not going to work those anymore picking up refuse."

The city also is considering private operation of garbage collection and using more automated trucks than the three it has.

The trash collection program costs the city about $14 million a year. Toledo is facing a potential $10 million deficit for the 2008 general operating fund and possibly an even greater shortfall for 2009's general fund budget, which is to be released Nov. 15.

Mr. Reinbolt said the shifting-day program, which is used successfully in Columbus, would save $400,000 in 2009.

To avoid having to send trash collectors out on a weekend after a holiday, city residents would have their pickup day moved to the following workday - where it would remain until the next holiday, when it would shift forward to the following day.

For example, if your trash is picked up on Monday, when there is a holiday during the week, your trash day then becomes Tuesday. It wouldremain on Tuesday until the next holiday week, when it would become Wednesday.

The people whose trash is collected on Fridays on a holiday week would shift to Monday and it would remain Monday until the next holiday.

City employees have 13 paid holidays off of work: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents' Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas.

Mr. Reinbolt admitted the shifting schedule is complicated and probably will be unpopular, but he said the change is necessary.

"Unfortunately, when you make changes, people are resistant to change," Mr. Reinbolt said. "You either make changes like this or you layoff positions you don't want to layoff."

Trash would continue to be collected once-a-week, and recyclables every other week.

The plan to shift days would be coupled with eventual citywide use of automated garbage trucks that need a single operator rather than a three-man crew.

The automated trucks could be operated by city employees or trash pickup could be contracted out to a private company.

Ultimately, Toledo City Council will make the final decision.

Councilman Joe McNamara said the proposal would need to include a "massive education campaign" so people could adjust.

"We need to make fundamental changes in the way we are delivering services, and so long as there is enough public education and feedback, it is something worth exploring," Mr. McNamara said.

Councilman Wilma Brown is worried about privatizing trash collection.

"I don't believe in privatization because the people we have now live here in the city and take pride in their work, plus, think about the people we may have to lay off," she said

The city ran a 10,000-home automated pilot program this year. Residents in the program, which was operated in several pockets across Toledo, received two 96-gallon containers - one for trash and the other for recyclables. Trucks equipped with an automated side arm collected garbage from those homes.

A recent survey conducted for the city found the overall approval rating for the program to be 64.3 percent.

The city could spend $20 million for new automated trucks and enough containers for every household.

Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of council's finance committee, said the automated trucks are costly but would save the city money.

Other cost-cutting measures proposed by the Finkbeiner administration include shutting down all nonessential governmental business for three days before the end of 2008 and four days during 2009, eliminating or postponing millions in capital improvement projects, and some layoffs.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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