Sherman working on bulk trash program

By William C. Wadsack

Herald Democrat

Following several recent modifications to Sherman’s city-wide Bulk Trash and Brush Collection program, staff in the city’s public works department are holding off requesting an ordinance to charge residents who continue to ignore guidelines. That decision was partly based on the success of the recent designation of staff member Kelsey Martin to educate citizens on the program’s rules.

“We’ve really focused more on education than on what I would call enforcement,” Public Works Director Don Keene said during an update on the program at last week’s City Council meeting. “(Martin) was a driver on one of our combination trucks. She’s been driving these routes and she knows the program. We feel like her efforts and her work have already had a very positive impact.”

Keene explained that Martin began collecting data at the beginning of October on the number of compliant versus non-compliant set-outs of bulk trash and brush. She then speaks with city customers in person, on the phone or through other means.

“We developed a door hanger we use for noncompliant set-outs where we aren’t able to make contact with our customer,” Keene said. “We’ll leave this door hanger on the door of the citizen to explain what the issue is and what they can do so we don’t have that problem in the future.”

In addition to the door hangers, citizens also receive a copy of the city’s new bulk waste and brush brochure, which details the program’s rules and answers frequently asked questions.

“We also showed some pictures on what’s acceptable and what’s not as far as mixed piles,” Keene explained of the brochure, which is available on the city’s website. “And a reminder on the volume limits, five yards volume is approximately a full-sized pickup bed full up to the top of the cab. That would be your bulk trash limit, and then twice that would be your limit on brush.”

The brochure also explains the importance of separate piles, where piles should be placed and features a map of how the city is divided into four quadrants.

“We begin in the southeast quadrant and work counter-clockwise collecting one quadrant per week,” Keene said of the schedule used. “And I want to remind everybody that any months we have with a fifth Monday, we do not collect that week.”

The public works director said the city averages about 350 set-outs per week with a little more than 10 percent non-compliant before the department’s education officer speaks with customers.

“Approximately 12 percent of our residential solid waste customers participate in this program on a regular basis,” Keene explained. “One percent of those customers are out of compliance when they make their set-outs and then 0.25 percent are still out of compliance after we’ve done our interventions and our education.”

As he discussed during the Council’s annual budget workshop in June, Keene explained his department is considering requesting an ordinance to charge residents who refuse to correct their non-compliant set-outs.

“We’d talked about bringing to you an ordinance that would allow us to pick up those non-compliant set-outs immediately after we’ve done the education — once people have had an opportunity to get it right and chose still not to do that,” Keene told the Council. “We go ahead and pick it up and charge them per our special pick up rates, but what we feel is the most responsible thing to do is to collect some more data.”

Keene said his department would collect data for another three months before deciding whether to move forward with the ordinance request.

“We’ve got one month’s worth of data,” Keene said. “We would be more comfortable, and feel like it would be more prudent to collect another quarter’s worth of data and then make a more educated decision on whether it’s the right thing to do to bring forth that ordinance.”

Sherman Mayor Cary Wacker praised the public works department’s efforts to explain the issue to customers.

“Education is really key because we get new people moving in and out all the time,” Wacker said. “It sounds like this is accomplishing what you intended and I think everybody will be pleased that we’re making some progress on that.”

Keene agreed they’d made progress on reducing non-compliance, but doubted his department would be able to eliminate it.

“I think we’re always going to have a little bit of that, but it’s a small percentage,” Keene said.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s as small a percentage as it is,” Deputy Mayor Pam Howeth added. “That really is impressive that it’s that small. It shows that it’s a very good program.”