City wants better handle on trash

By Tony Parra

Portales residents are leaving appliances, sheet rock materials, scattered garbage and furniture items next to dumpsters and it’s causing a problem, say city officials.

City staff members want these items placed in the city’s convenience center instead of the alleys. City officials said heavy appliances, sheet rock and other trash items are causing an increased amount of work for the limited solid waste crew.

“The issue is how we are handling garbage placed around dumpsters,” Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega said. “We can’t keep up with it. There’s so much dumping that it’s taking a long time to get around the city.”

City officials have already started reviewing the solid waste ordinance.
Stephen Doerr, city attorney, said people are doing what the current public ordinance allows, but said the ordinance is outdated.

“Under the existing ordinance they’re supposed to place solid waste next to the dumpster,” Doer said.

Debi Lee, city manager, said a solution is promoting the use of the Portales Convenience Center.

“The intent of it is for the public to use it for solid waste,” Lee said. “We have instances where people are remodeling and throwing all the garbage in the alley. Some people are just throwing their garbage over the fence. It is creating a backload on the department.”

Lee said in some cases people are leaving trash scattered next to the dumpster. She said an ordinance requiring people to bundle, box or package their items could alleviate that problem. This would decrease the amount of time workers are spending.

Lee said Terra Foster, a new hire in the public relations department, will help with public campaigns and running advertisements.

Tom Howell, public works director, said previously flyers were sent out with water bills with information about the convenience center. He said flyers could also be given to new water customers.

Tree limbs, appliances, sheet rock, furniture and other bulky items are ideal for the convenience center. Public works employees would rather the dumpsters be used for paper, empty cartons, plastic and other disposable items.

Howell said this year he has seen the amount of regular trash increase along with the amount of trash on the side of the dumpsters.

“It’s seasonal,” Howell said. “People will do yardwork and remodel their homes during good weather in the summer, so you won’t see as much (trash in the alleys) in November and December.”

Howell said during the busiest times it is taking solid waste crew members two months to get through the city cleaning up all the refuse. He said ideally they would like to do it in one month.

Requirements for business and home owners for upkeep of the area around the dumpsters would be tough to do because of the difficulty of pinpointing where the trash came from.

Howell said in some cases county residents will dump their trash in the dumpsters most convenient to them.

Still, Howell and city administrators would prefer the trash from county residents be taken to the convenience center. Howell said the convenience center is staffed with two people and so is the brush truck that picks up garbage on the side of the dumpsters.

Howell said Portales public works employees are taking an average of 28 to 32 tons of total trash to Clovis each day, Monday through Friday. Howell said the average is 30.8 tons from July 2005 to June compared to 26.37 tons per day from July 2001 to June 2003.

Lee said city councilors and city staff will continue to look at rates, adding staff, ordinances and other options to alleviate the problem.