“Better is possible.” That was my campaign slogan last fall, but I intend to maintain this mantra throughout my term, starting with bulk trash. In my discussions with citizens, it has been the No. 1 issue. In fact, a constituent emailed yesterday with photos of bulk trash littering his neighborhood.
I’ve been urging city leaders to address this issue since I was elected. With so many initiatives already in motion, I’m grateful they were willing to start discussions so soon.
Since the election, the City Manager and his staff have worked tirelessly to provide Councilman Miles and I (“the newbies”) with a crash course in Maryville’s municipal operations. When it comes to bulk trash pickup, here’s what I’ve learned…
First, Maryville’s sanitation employees do an exceptional job. They care deeply about this community and their customers. Their work isn’t the problem.
CITY LEADERS AND CITIZENS CAN DO BETTER.
Citizens (residents and landlords) need to follow the rules, which includes only taking bulk trash to the curb during their three-day window — one to three days before their appointed zone each month.
The City of Maryville needs to make it more clear exactly when residents can take bulk trash to the curb, communicate all the rules and enforce them.
WHEN CAN YOU TAKE BULK TRASH TO THE CURB?
Understanding when you can take bulk trash to the curbside is tricky. For example: residents in the green zone should have bulk trash on the curb by the last day of the month, March 31, no earlier than March 28; residents in the yellow zone by April 7, no earlier than April 4; residents in the red zone by April 14, no earlier than April 11; and residents in the blue zone by April 21, no earlier than April 18.
Red circles and arrows are mine. The full 2021 zone calendar can be found HERE.
PROBLEM: It’s understandable that citizens aren’t quite clear when they should take bulk trash to the curb. Many believe they can place items on the curb anytime in their colored zone. That’s not true. The zones indicate an estimated time period for one-round of pickup. So for instance, if you are in the green zone, you need to have it on the curb between March 28-31 and it will be picked up sometime between April 1-7, more specifically either April 1st, 5th, 6th or 7th because of the holiday and weekend.
SOLUTION: Better communication from the city…
- Provide a better calendar. It should not only highlight zones, but also indicate when residents in those zones should place items on the curb.
- Make it easier for residents to find their pickup information online. This means rather than scroll down a pdf to (maybe) find their street, residents simply enter their address into a search window and their pickup information is provided. Residents don’t need info on every zone in the city – just their zone.
- Offer text alerts. SMS tools are relatively inexpensive and incredibly effective. Residents could sign up to receive automated text notifications each month before their zone’s three-day window to remind them that they can place bulk trash items on the curb.
The city must effectively communicate and enforce the rules. I was encouraged to hear that my counterparts on City Council also recognized this during the *March 19th work session. The Daily Times recently reported on this discussion. You can find the article HERE.
At this meeting, longtime resident Leslie Marvin told council, “The abuse of the bulk-trash service is terrible in my neighborhood, and I have been trying for years to get the city to enforce the codes.” She wrote a Letter to the Editor in The Daily Times about sharing her concerns with us.
We have some of the nicest people working for the city, but residents and landlords who repeatedly leave piles of bulk trash on curbsides for weeks must be held accountable. There are state laws that restrict municipalities on enforcements, including how much we can fine property owners. City Manager Greg McClain will be sharing those regulations with council at next month’s work session.
Bulk trash sitting on curbsides for weeks isn’t the only problem. Sanitation workers encounter many violations on their routes, which can severely impact service city-wide.
Pop Quiz: What’s wrong with this picture?
Answer: Trash & brush must be separated!
Sanitation Department leaders shared this, and several other images, as part of their presentation to council at the work session. They did a GREAT job. Even longtime council members said they learned something new during the presentation.
I recommended that as part of a larger communications plan, city staff use these types of images on social media to provide ongoing education to residents about bulk trash and brush pickup.
PROBLEM: Many residents aren’t aware of the rules and procedures, and many simply won’t comply after being warned.
SOLUTION: My hope is that city staff will propose a robust public information campaign; work with council to create a stronger policy of enforcement; and hold repeat violators accountable.
WHAT ABOUT AN APPOINTMENT SYSTEM?
Even when residents follow the rules, under the current system, bulk trash sits on curbsides for 3-7 days. I hope someday city leaders will be open to looking at moving from a zone system to an appointment system. Right now, there doesn’t appear to be enough support to do that. City staffing at the leadership level is lean so I appreciate how difficult it would be to even evaluate adopting a new system.
Let’s work together. ‘Better is possible’ if we all do our part.
Share your thoughts and concerns! You can text or call me at 865-599-2037 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Bulk trash pickup will be discussed again at the April 16th City Council Work Session. These meetings are held on the third Fridays of every month, 8 a.m, at the Maryville Municipal Building.