I have at least three neighbors who believe the solid waste efficiency study the city hired a consultant to do is — to put it politely — garbage.
I happen to live in Powers Tract, ground zero for residential alley solid waste collection. There are a lot of other places in town where homes still get their garbage picked up from the alley but not in nearly the concentration of the neighborhood sandwiched between Spreckels Park and Manteca High.
To be clear I don’t really care where I place my carts for their weekly collection — in the alley or in front of my home.
But I do share more than a few of my neighbors’ concerns about the solid waste efficiency report that several believe is a well-crafted first step toward justifying abandoning alleys.
The most ludicrous claim the consultant made to justify dropping alley service was how taking the solid waste trucks down the alleys “borders on unsafe” and how “collection vehicles can hardly drive through alleys without taking down electrical lines.”
The city has been collecting garbage in the alleys of Powers Tract for 66 years and has yet to take out a power line or electrocute a solid waste worker.
The consultant also talks about how the solid waste drivers have to attempt “to avoid illegally discarded/stored property.”
I jog a lot and more often than not glance down alleys I pass just to make sure no one is barreling down them without stopping. In the 10 years I’ve lived in Powers Tract I have yet to see stuff literally lying in the alley. There have been pickups loading and unloading. Come to think of it, there was an incident in my alley on a Tuesday collection day when a solid waste truck couldn’t get down a few years back because a city crew was working on the sewer line that runs down the Powers Tract alley along with the water line.
The consultant noted that “the collection vehicle is required to service two sides of the alley as well as two residential streets.”
The only people in Powers Tract who have carts in front of their homes are on the east side of Cowell Street where the alley is too narrow for a garbage truck to pass and on the north side of Marin Street east of Powers Avenue, two homes on the dead end of Yolo Street and several homes along Trinity Street where there are no alleys.
As for making two passes in an alley, it’s a “duh” observation. The trucks would have to make two passes if they did street collections to serve the same homes. If there are places in the city where the solid waste trucks have to go down the alley and in front of the homes to collect trash maybe the city should do one or the other. And maybe there is a reason for it. There are some small homes — the city calls them granny flats — that are only accessed from the alley. Could it be the efficiency expert missed such a little detail?
The consultant observed that by discontinuing alley service wherever possible it “will reduce damages to real property and increase route efficiency.”
To paraphrase another overpaid expert known as Johnny “Football” Menzel, “show me the damages.” And show me more than just alley collection damages if they occurred but also those from street collections such as tipping garbage trucks taking corners from solid waste workers striving to be too efficient. (It has happened but not in recent years.)
The consultant contends residential routes are operating at 95 percent efficiency. That’s pretty impressive. Will getting rid of alley service then see them operate at 100 percent efficiency?
I can’t speak to other neighborhoods with alley service but the solid waste drivers that go down my alley seem to go just as fast as they do on street routes. In some cases on streets where they pause to make sure there is clearance from carts and vehicles parked on the street, I’d say they go faster down my alley. Perhaps to make sure the city can attain 100 percent efficiency perhaps they can ban on street parking on collection days.
The consultant also recommends the city conduct a time study to adequately measure the effect of older vehicles versus nearer clean-fueled vehicles.
Is the consultant operating in a vacuum or did he not know Manteca is investing close to $20 million in wastewater treatment plant upgrades (replacement was needed) and modifing them to work with the purchase of solid waste food separating equipment and installing facilities to convert food waste to compressed gas for the sole purpose of powering solid waste trucks?
As part of that effort the city is slowly replacing older vehicles.
My personal favorite is what city staff glossed over in the consultant’s report in regards to staffing. The memo to the council notes they’ve already decided to eliminate a vacant solid waste worker position and shifted a customer service representative to the finance department as the consultant recommended.
But there is no mention in the memo to the council about the consultant’s observation that he “cannot state with any degree of confidence that a community with a population the size of Manteca necessitates the scale of management currently in place, specifically a solid waste manager and a solid waste supervisor.”
With the solid waste manager within eight months of retirement, why not bring this particular recommendation of the consultant forward?
It would probably save a whole lot more money — as well as reduce future retirement costs — than “eliminating alley service where possible.”
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.