Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings said Thursday he was encouraged by suggestions, comments and the generally “positive tone” that emerged during a discussion Wednesday of improvements to trash collection in a city where at least six different businesses collect residential trash throughout every week.
Hastings attended Wednesday night’s meeting of city council’s Utilities Committee, which is tackling issues surrounding citywide trash collection at the mayor’s request. Wednesday’s meeting at the North East Street fire station was also attended by residents and representatives of local trash collecting companies.
Hastings opened the meeting by saying any changes in trash collection are “not something I’m looking to rush into.” He said local trash haulers “should not be negatively affected, and hopefully would benefit.”
Utilities Committee chair Becky Wilkin, along with committee members Bill Alexander and Tracy Aranyos, agreed that they did not want to take action that negatively impacted local businesses.
Wednesday’s discussion included general agreement that more could be done to protect the city’s streets and have less of an impact on traffic during high volume commuting times. Hastings said he recently was stuck in traffic on North High Street because of three different trash haulers who were making their rounds simultaneously.
Among attendees Wednesday was Braden Dunham, who spent 12 years as superintendent of the sanitation department for the city of Wilmington until leaving recently to join his family’s private trash collection business. Dunham noted that Wilmington conducts its own trash collection, with all residents using standardized trash receptacles that are collected by one person using an automated truck with a hydraulic mechanical arm that picks up and dumps the refuse.
Dunham and others in attendance Wednesday agreed that Wilmington is generally cleaner than Hillsboro, and Dunham credited at least part of that difference to the uniform trash collection and the rules that all residents must follow there. He said the easiest and most efficient way to conduct trash collection would be for the city to award a bid to one trash hauler.
But neither the mayor nor committee members seemed interested in relegating business to one trash hauler.
Dunham also suggested that the city could be divided into quadrants for multiple collectors or, as another alternative, city officials could require all collectors to pick up trash on designated streets during the same day each week, avoiding situations where multiple collectors are on the same streets on various days throughout each week, something which at least one resident complained about Wednesday, saying her short street had a trash collector on it every day of the week except one.
“It’s beating up our streets,” she said.
Don Tener, owner of Tener Trash Removal, said his company is conscientious and its drivers are trusted by customers.
“We take a lot of pride in serving the community,” said Tener. But he agreed there are changes that could be implemented to improve the overall trash collection system in Hillsboro.
“We’ve heard a few good ideas already,” he said.
Hastings said Hillsboro’s current disorganized trash collection system and the overall problem of trash scattered around the city led him to raise the issue.
“Hillsboro has a big trash and litter problem,” he said. He said some residents pay for trash collection while others do not. “It’s not fair,” he said.
Hastings mentioned a number of cities in the region which have standardized trash pickup under a variety of scenarios. He said he has considered whether all trash bills could be collected by the city – possibly through water and sewer bills – and disbursed to the companies, although Dunham suggested such a scenario would be difficult.
Wilkin said her committee will continue to study the issue and gather more information.
Hastings said he will meet with all local trash collectors to garner more input and determine whether the businesses themselves can reach agreements on issues like servicing all customers on the same street on the same day, picking up earlier in the mornings to avoid high-volume traffic snarls, and more clearly identifying trash vehicles and workers through brighter vehicle lettering and safety vests.
On Thursday, the mayor said that after Wednesday’s meeting he is convinced the problems can be solved without excessive legislation or drastic mandates.
“We just need some standardization and common sense,” he said. “I really liked the meeting. There was a lot of good engagement, and people were talking constructively.”
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.