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Published: Saturday, 2/20/2010

City of Toledo trash crews reduced by 42 positions

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Forty-two Toledo trash collectors were given layoff notices, with more than half of them not guaranteed other city jobs.

"Twenty-seven of them can apply for other jobs within the city in other bargaining units, but they would not have their seniority with the bargaining unit if there was a layoff in the future," said Jen Sorgenfrei, spokesman for Mayor Mike Bell.

The other 15 trash collectors were moved into vacant positions in other city departments, Ms. Sorgenfrei said.

The layoffs are part of the city's continued downsizing of the solid waste department after it began in December using garbage trucks with automated arms that require only a single driver rather than a three-person crew.

Neither Bill Lichtenwald, president of Teamsters Local 20, nor Chuck Collinson, business representative for the union, which represents the refuse collectors, returned phone calls seeking comment.

Dave Welch, Toledo's director of public service, said the city had 80 collectors and 47 drivers in 2009.

Mr. Welch acknowledged the workers were upset when the layoffs were announced Thursday.

"Obviously this is a major change and some of them are going to lose their job and they are not happy," he said.

Thirteen collectors were moved to other city departments in December.

"For 2010, we are going to end up with 10 collectors and 49 drivers," Mr. Welch said.

The city expects the switch to automation to result in a net saving of $3 million a year, but the predicted costs for 2010 have been higher than expected.

In fact, the city's 2010 general fund deficit, which is about $48.2 million, was bumped up by $1.3 million by the refuse department.

Among the extra costs were adding a call center to handle the large number of calls from residents, new inspectors to ensure people were using the new containers properly, and using traditional trucks to collect bulk and overflow trash within a 48-hour window.

Some trash could not be collected because Toledoans placed the containers at the curb improperly, too close to a vehicle, or even too close to each other - which does not allow for the automated arm to grab it.

Mr. Welch said all new containers needed for automated pickup would be delivered by mid-March.

"No matter what happens, we are still going to have bulk pickup, and there are some areas of the city we can't automate because it is too hilly or the streets are too narrow, which is where we will have to go with semiautomated," he said.

"That is where you have two people in back of a truck that has a tipper to lift the container."

The 180,000 trash and recycling containers - two for every household - cost the city $9.67 million to buy. The city also spent $12.2 million to buy 40 automated garbage trucks.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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