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Cincinnati residents will see delays in trash pickup due to brownouts, low staffing

Posted: 12:17 PM, Jun 18, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-18 23:04:47Z

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati residents will begin seeing delays in trash collections because the city’s Department of Public Service lacks enough workers.

That’s the message public services leaders gave to Cincinnati City Council on Monday, as it delivered the results of a climate assessment that revealed bad morale, low staffing and lack of training in the department responsible for the city’s most basic services – collecting trash, fixing potholes and plowing snow.

The city's sanitation department will be undergoing the equivalent of fire department "brownouts."

“There is a major crisis here, and at the heart of this crisis is inadequate staffing,” said Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman.

Several hours after Monday's hearing, Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney released an FYI memo assuring that no trash collection "brownouts" would occur. 

"It is true there are some employee shortages in DPS that we are actively working to address," the memo stated. "These staffing challenges may occasionally result in missed scheduled pickups for trash or yard waste collection for some residents. However please know that these missed pickups will be extremely few in number and all missed pickups will be collected by the following service day."

Jerry Wilkerson, the city’s new public services director, said the job is “one of the toughest in the city.”

Each day the city’s sanitation department is short 23 workers, out of a total staff of 72, between injuries, vacations and staff shortages.

“Every day we start off five to six crews short,” said public services deputy director Joel Koopman.

That means sanitation crews must make an extra 100 to 200 trash stops each day, collecting three to five more tons of garbage, just to make up for the staff shortages.

In order to improve morale and save employee injuries, sanitation crews will no longer be working those extra hours.

Tyrone Richardson, a sanitation worker, said heat combined with long hours can make for a difficult work environment. 

“When it gets hot like this, you kind of get drained, but we keep plenty of water and try to keep fluids in us,” Richardson said. 

If trash isn’t picked up on a resident’s normal trash day, it will be collected the following day, Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson said he’s hopeful residents will be patient and homeowners should call the city if they think their route has been missed.  

“It’s more likely that it hasn’t been missed,” Wilkerson said. “It’s just that we’re short on routes, and we have to come back the next day to make those up.”

“We’re not going to put our people at risk,” said Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman. “If you do those shutoffs, the morale will start to turn around.”

Smitherman, chair of city council’s Law and Public Safety Committee, said the results of the department of public services climate assessment, showed 70 percent of those workers have poor morale.

“It’s going to be very difficult to turn that around without money,” Smitherman said.

City council is facing an extremely tight budget this year that must be passed by June 30.

“We’ve got to get the manpower needed to bring service up to full capacity,” said Maurice Brown, president of the ASME Local 250 union, which represents sanitation workers. “If we could get 20 to 30 more good individuals.”

Smitherman said many of the same issues plaguing the city's 911 center, are facing the department of public services. He has asked for weekly updates.

On Monday, with temperatures topping 90 degrees, Brown was driving around the city with coolers of water to hand out to sanitation workers.

"This is something that has to be addressed as quickly as possible, and this speaks to a larger issue in our budget," Landsman said.