County must address trashy issue
March 25, 2006
Trash collection is an issue most citizens take for granted except when they can’t ignore it. When there is a problem like late pickups, overflowing dumpsters or fee hikes, the matter quickly turns into a crisis. That is why the Summit County Commission wants to delay signing a new contract before exploring all of the alternatives.
While debates about garbage how to pick it up and where to take it — are hardly the glamorous issues that most elected officials campaign on. But trash collection is one of the most essential services the county must provide and in past years, awarding the contract has been a political firecracker.
The biggest trash upheaval came several years ago when the county (including Park City) switched from manual collection to mechanical collection necessitating the introduction of uniform receptacles the big blue and brown cans that are now standard along Summit County highways and streets.
The original proposal, to shift from makeshift bags and cans to a standard size and color barrel provided by the county, was controversial when it was first imposed, but has since become accepted. Collection with a mechanical arm requires less manpower and is quicker and safer.
Nevertheless there are still problems and plenty of room for improvement. Some ongoing problems with the current company, Allied Waste Management, could be addressed in a new contract.
Specifically, the county should clarify and expand the recycling services included in the current contract with an eye toward more accountability for the materials collected and expansion of the service.
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In bidding a new contract, the county should also address some of the safety concerns raised when Joshua Huggard was killed when the brakes failed on the garbage truck he was driving. For instance, the county could require more stringent mandatory independent equipment checks.
Contract renewal cycles are only useful when both parties take the time to carefully re-evaluate the services being offered, the quality of the relationship and the ever-changing cost of doing business. Since the Summit County Commissioners and the Public Works Department were, apparently, unprepared to thoroughly review Allied’s contract before its scheduled expiration date, they were wise to extend it. However, that review process should now be moved to top of the commission agenda.