published Saturday, June 12th, 2010

City hears outcry against brush pickup


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

Justin Holland

Peggy Winningham doesn't understand how the city saves money by picking up brush only on demand.

Every week she sees piles of brush on the side of Hillcrest Road where she lives in North Chattanooga, and city trucks just pass them by as they pick up her yard clippings.

"The main thing I worry about is when they see several piles, they won't pick it up," she said. "That's wasteful."

Chattanooga instituted a brush-on-demand program last summer and, since that time, it has been a headache for city officials as they deal with complaints from the public about not picking up yard debris.

To get brush -- branches, grass clippings, other yard debris -- picked up, residents must call the city's 311 number and get on a schedule.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - City of Chattanooga equipment operator Dwight Manghane uses a knuckle-boom to load brush in the 500 block of Shawnee Trail on Friday.

City Council members have debated with Public Works officials about the merits of the program and whether it needs tweaking.

Councilwoman Deborah Scott said this week she receives constant complaints from constituents about not being able to get through the city's 311 call center in a timely manner and city trucks just passing by brush that is sitting on the side of the road.

Mrs. Scott said she feels the residents' pain and doesn't understand as well why the city trucks just don't pick up the yard trimmings, even if a pickup has not been officially scheduled.

"They are still going to have to come back a day or two later," she said.

Justin Holland, the city's sanitation supervisor, said the brush-on-demand program is working. He said there has been a reduction in fuel and personnel costs and the city is saving money.

"We've received some complaints," he said. "But we've also received 35,000 calls."

BRUSH SAVINGS

The city of Chattanooga said it has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars going to on-demand service. The breakdown of savings last year is:

* $252,033: Total savings from July 2009 to April 2010

* $187,110: Reductions in personnel costs by trimming five positions

* $64,293: Reduction in fuel costs

Source: City of Chattanooga

Trucks go on routes, much like UPS or Federal Express vehicles, and pick up what is on their route that day, he said. If drivers picked up brush not on their routes, people who did call in might not get their brush picked up that day, he said.

Drivers of the brush truck would never know how much brush is on the side of the road to pick up, Mr. Holland said.

"Everybody doesn't understand the program," he said. "We've certainly seen that. We're seeing brush piled up."

Steve Winningham, attorney for Winningham & Winningham and Mrs. Winningham's son, said this week he may take matters into his own hands.

He sent the city attorney's office a letter in October, saying the city's brush-on-demand program did not legally satisfy the requirements of city law. According to the ordinance, brush pickup is to happen on a "regular basis approximately once a month."

He said he has heard nothing from the city.

"I haven't heard a word and we're looking to go to Chancery Court," Mr. Winningham said.

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Councilman relays residents' brush collection complaints

Article: Thousands ready for more curbside recycling

Article: ALTON PARK: Change in brush pickup keeps curbs clean

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