Coun­cil holds briefing on trash, re­cy­cling over­haul

Once-a-week col­lec­tion, other prob­lems dis­cussed

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

The Prince Ge­orge’s County Coun­cil held a briefing on trash and re­cy­cling over­haul Tues­day at the County Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing in Up­per Marl­boro, ad­dress­ing res­i­dents’ con­cerns about prob­lems with trash pick up and lit­ter strewn about the area.

More than 30 peo­ple at­tended the open meet­ing which in­cluded pre­sen­ta­tions and re­marks from De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment Di­rec­tor Adam Or­tiz and Deputy Di­rec­tor Joseph Gill, as well as 311 Call Cen­ter Of­fice of Com­mu­nity Re­la­tions Di­rec­tor Musa L. Eubanks.

“We had a num­ber of folks, all over my district, email and call about, ‘The door hanger said my day was this day or it didn’t match what’s [on the on­line map] and then they came on a dif­fer­ent day,’” said Coun­cil­man Mel Franklin (D), whose ar­eas in­clude Ac­co­keek, Aquasco, Baden, Brandy­wine, Chel­tenham, Clin­ton,

Ea­gle Har­bor, Fort Wash­ing­ton, Pis­cat­away and Up­per Marl­boro. “What was sort of the cause of that is­sue? That hap­pened quite a bit across the county.”

In re­sponse, Or­tiz said what most likely hap­pened is that in some cases, sev­eral of the haulers had mul­ti­ple routes and may have mixed up the ar­eas and de­liv­er­ies.

“I can’t say with cer­tainty. I’m just sort of guess­ing, Mr. Franklin,” Or­tiz said.

Franklin read aloud a Clin­ton res­i­dent’s ques­tion re­gard­ing how valid calls and com­plaints are ob­tained from dif­fer­ent ge­o­graphic ar­eas in the county. He asked Or­tiz whether that in­for­ma­tion comes from the county Click 311 sys­tem, for­warded emails, phone calls, etc.

“We have a master map, the [Ge­o­graphic In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem] GIS map,” Or­tiz said. “It’s ex­portable. That’s the in­for­ma­tion that we work with the haulers to get as the new bound­aries were con­sol­i­dated and made more ef­fi­cient. That in­for­ma­tion was taken and shared with them early on dur­ing the leg­isla­tive process. For the most part, I’m pretty con­fi­dent that our GIS in­for­ma­tion was ac­cu­rate.”

“They pro­vided maps to us and for our re­view, ba­si­cally to show us how many houses they would be do­ing in each day, in each of the ser­vice ar- eas,” added Gill. “Even be­fore that, as part of lead­ing up to the con­tract ap­provals, we pro­vided train­ing for all of the con­trac­tors in terms of how to do once-aweek, same day trash and re­cy­cling pick up. … Go­ing into it, we wanted to make sure we had maps from all the haulers, what they’re go­ing to do each day of the week in each of the ser­vice ar­eas and then we had in­spec­tors that have gone out and would ac­tu­ally do area re­views to make sure ar­eas are picked up.”

Gill said the en­vi­ron­ment de­part­ment made a great ef­fort to get the maps and routes ap­proved to make sure every­one was on board be­fore trash col­lec­tion be­gan.

“The dry runs would have oc­curred dur­ing the two weeks be­fore­hand when they had to dis­trib­ute all of the door hang­ers,” Gill said.

When it comes to pick up days, Franklin said he re­ceived a lot of com­plaints from res­i­dents.

“A lot of folks do cook­ing out or they do so­cial things on the week­end. They didn’t have a lot of trash ear­lier in the week and that trash stays with them un­til the end of the week,” Franklin said. “What is the ra­tio­nale for the pick up days that have been se­lected?”

Or­tiz said the haulers worked to­gether to find out what made the most sense based on his­toric ar­eas where they’ve been.

“There’s al­ways go­ing to be some­body who’s closer to the be­gin­ning of the week and some­body who’s closer to the end of the week,” he said. “There’s only so many houses and only so many days of the week. We re­gret that some peo­ple have a pick up on Fri­day, but most likely now we have other peo­ple that don’t have pick up on Fri­day.”

Franklin asked about the pick up days for dif­fer­ent ar­eas through­out the county.

“They all have pick up Tues­day through Fri­day and then yard waste on Mon­day. So ev­ery ser­vice area has Tues­day through Fri­day pick­ups,” Gill said.

Franklin then asked how a prob­lem is iden­ti­fied and how one goes about en­sur­ing that data is ac­cu­rate.

“Is it com­pletely com­plaint driven or do you have an as­sess­ment tool?,” he said.

Or­tiz said ev­ery­day op­er­a­tions are com­plaint driven ex­cept for cer­tain ar­eas where there have been con­sis­tent prob­lems.

“We have way too much lit­ter in District 9. Per­haps it’s not as no­tice­able be­cause we’re so large, I don’t know,” Franklin said. “We have a large amount of pass-through traf­fic on Branch Av­enue, on Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue as well as [Route] 210 which at­tracts a lot of lit­ter. … That’s some­thing that I would en­cour­age re­vis­it­ing.”

Speak­ing of way too much lit­ter, Coun­cil­woman Karen R. Toles (D) asked Or­tiz when Suit­land, one of six com­mu­ni­ties iden­ti­fied un­der the county’s Trans­form­ing Neigh­bor­hoods Ini­tia­tive, would re­ceive tot­ers as res­i­dents have been com­plain­ing of trash be­ing ev­ery­where.

“I live there and it’s trash ev­ery­where on my street. I’m tired of it,” Toles said. “That’s one of the county ex­ec­u­tive’s TNI com­mu­ni­ties so I would imag­ine that would be one of the first ar­eas you would take care of.”

Or­tiz said Suit­land should re­ceive tot­ers within the next four to six weeks as they are be­ing dis­trib­uted se­quen­tially across the re­gion.

“Our pri­or­i­ties are the denser, in­ner Belt­way ar­eas. TNI com­mu­ni­ties are cer­tainly among them,” he said. “They’re in the first part of the roll­out. The great­est ef­fi­ciency in the roll­out is to go se­quen­tially-ge­o­graph­i­cally from area to area. My un­der­stand­ing is that we’ve al­ready done one of the TNI ar­eas, Glass­manor, and one of the next ones are both the Suit­land and Hill­crest Heights TNI ar­eas as well. We’re not there yet but it’s among our pri­or­ity com­mu­nity ar­eas.”

Toles said res­i­dents can’t af­ford to wait that long as other TNI com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing Coral Hills and Hill­crest Heights, have also com­plained of too much lit­ter.

“It’s just not a good rep­re­sen­ta­tion,” Toles said. “I’m hear­ing that when peo­ple call, they are get­ting told that they just had a bulk trash pick up so they could not pick it up again. That may be lead­ing to ad­di­tional trash in the com- mu­nity and more lit­ter be­ing dumped.”

“We agree that lit­ter is prob­a­bly the big­gest en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue fac­ing this county,” Or­tiz said.

Ac­cord­ing to a col­lec­tions over­haul roll­out over­view packet from the county’s en­vi­ron­ment de­part­ment, there were about 1,323 valid com­plaints ear­lier this year in May com­pared to just 504 com­plaints in May 2015.

As far as over­sight and re­spon­sive­ness, a pre­sen­ta­tion from the county Click 311 Call Cen­ter’s com­mu­nity re­la­tions of­fice shows that a de­cline in staffing has led to more prob­lems. There are only 14 call takers for this fis­cal year com­pared to 18, 17 and 24 call takers in fis­cal years 2015, 2014 and 2013, re­spec­tively.

To im­prove its ser­vices, the cen­ter will cre­ate a track­ing team to per­form agency and cit­i­zen fol­low-up; pur­chase a call mon­i­tor­ing and record­ing tool; add more team mem­bers; and launch a new and im­proved Cus­tomer Re­la­tion­ship Man­age­ment sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to Eubanks.

“An in­crease of staff is go­ing to be the big­gest is­sue,” Eubanks said. “Is that go­ing to get us to where we want to be over­all in­dus­try stan­dards? It’s re­ally go­ing to de­pend on the call vol­ume. I’ll cer­tainly be the first to come to this coun­cil and let you know if it does not and if we need more peo­ple to give the cit­i­zens the ser­vice they de­serve.”

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