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Early signs show the city’s new scouting and mapping of bulk garbage piles had had sanitation staff running quicker cycles through Greenwood’s neighborhoods.
It’s only about a month in, but the city’s new tactic for dealing with its trash collection backlog seems to be working well, said Assistant City Manager Ryan Thomas. Public works is short by four drivers with commercial driver’s licenses, and the market for hiring CDL drivers is tight.
As Thomas told City Council at a meeting Thursday, he expects these staffing challenges to last. The city increased CDL driver pay to $20 an hour earlier this year, and has offered to pay for staff members to get their CDLs if they agree to stay with the city for a set number of years.
Thomas spearheaded a new approach. Using a mapping software, code enforcement staff members scout ahead of garbage collection routes, pin locations where there’s bulk trash to collect at curbsides and the software creates an optimized route for the collection crew to grab these piles. Curbside pile collections happen on a separate route from residential roll cart collections.
Given their staffing shortage, these more efficient routes mean CDL drivers spend less wasted time going down streets where there are no piles to collect. Previously, they’d have to drive every city street to scout for themselves, wasting time the short-staffed drivers could spend on other routes.
Since the start of the month, Thomas told council the new system has decreased the current cycle time for crews to cover five of their 13 zones by nearly 48%. Yard waste accounts for about 76% of the curbside pickups in these zones — scouting crews found 784 piles dumped by the curb in these zones since Oct. 4.
“I couldn’t be happier with how it’s been working so far,” Thomas said.
It took a long time to get this new system off the ground; managing the logistics between collection crews and code enforcement staff was a challenge. The technology has been easy for staff to use, and while there’s still some on-the-job learning for Thomas, he said this decrease in cycle time appears to be continuing to improve.
“It’s still not going to be optimal until we actually fill all our positions,” he said.
And the improvements won’t last. A driver will soon be diverted from the current collection routes to manage the leaf truck that comes out once trees shed their leaves. Still, this scouting and mapping system will be put to use on the leaf truck’s routes, to improve efficiency.
Public works staff are still operating short-staffed and delayed. Thomas asked that residents be mindful of that as staff work to find any way they can to deal with the backlog.
“We’re asking people to be patient,” he said. “We were already so behind when we started implementing this.”
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