October 14, 2009 9:13 AM
Every week huge city trucks drive up and down every one of the city's 765 miles of streets trolling for that mattress or that table that somebody tossed to the curb. Depending on the week, this demands six to sixteen workers and twelve trucks. Many gallons of fuel are needlessly burned and pollution and green house gasses are added to our environment.
In a budget year as tough as this one, is it really necessary or smart to do that? I don't think so nor do 77% of you who were asked that question in a recent survey. Better than three out of four Madisonians said they'd support going to every other week service for large item pickup just like recycling. (We didn't ask how many would support going to a once a month service or a call for service system, but I'd bet it would be substantial.)
This shouldn't be surprising as over half of those same respondents say they only throw out a large item maybe two to four times a year, if that.
Going to every other week service would save over $100,000 a year. Seems like a no brainer. But no, it's actually a brainer.
When I tried this last year, I got shot down by concerns over cutting Streets staff by four positions. (After all, that's how we get the savings.) But consider this.
Nobody will actually lose their jobs. There are currently six vacancies in Streets.
Between this and eliminating the brush collection schedule, we're talking four positions out of 175 permanent positions in Streets. That means there's still plenty of people to plow snow, pick up leaves and do all the other things that these positions do when they're not picking up large items. We'll maintain increased large item pickups in neighborhoods affected by student move ins and move outs. And remember that at any given time some of these positions are likely to be vacant anyway. Plus, as added insurance, I've increased the Streets hourly budget.
In our discussion at BOE, some alders were especially concerned that the loss of four positions would have some impact on snow plowing. Streets has 139 people qualified to plow snow and 90 pieces of equipment. In other words, we have 49 more people qualified to drive than we have plows. Going to 135 isn't likely to have much effect and even if it is a problem, we should find four more employees who can be trained to plow snow.
In a budget as tight as this one, this is an almost painless move that's also good for our environment.