Refuse companies: Safer in wee hours

Representatives for two refuse companies said it’s safer for everybody when they pick up garbage in the wee hours of the night, though some Salem residents apparently wish it was quieter.

The Rules & Ordinances Committee of City Council discussed the issue of garbage pickup times Tuesday night in response to calls a couple of council members had received from residents upset over their sleep being disturbed by garbage trucks.

Committee Chairman Councilman Rick Drummond explained a phone call Councilman Dave Nestic received from a woman regarding the time and the noise. She said the truck comes at 2:30 a.m. and has to back up because there’s no place to turn around, beeping the whole time. Noise also comes from the compacting of the garbage and wakes her young children.

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, also a member of the committee, said she’s had many calls in the Fourth Ward where she lives and serves and from her own household, which is on a corner. The garbage is picked up right outside her bedroom window.

Doug Dunn of Republic Services and Tony Perry of Arrow Disposal both talked about the safety factor for both their workers and the public, with Dunn saying they’re trying to avoid when the general public is out on the street. He said they face different challenges, with the ones who don’t like being woke up also the ones who will complain about the trucks being in the way during the daylight hours.

Perry brought with him copies of newletters for Waste and Recycling News. Every two weeks, he said almost every page talks about accidents that have happened, most during the daylight hours. He said Arrow Disposal has had two accidents with trucks, both after 7:30 a.m. He said people don’t pay attention and Arrow’s trucks are bright yellow and their workers wear safety vests.

Both companies start their collections in Salem around midnight and try to finish by 8 a.m., with weather conditions and truck breakdowns sometimes affecting the finish time.

Both said they rarely receive complaints from customers regarding the pickup time. Councilman Clyde Brown, a member of the committee, said he’s never had a constituent complain to him about the garbage trucks and if he wakes up, he just goes back to sleep.

“I don’t see a major issue here,” he said.

Dunn suggested if customers bag their garbage, it will go into the truck quicker and there will be less chance for debris. Also if residents separate out their recyclables, there will be less and leave more room in the front-loader bucket so it doesn’t have to be dumped as much.

Dickey said she would rather lose a little sleep than have accidents. Drummond said they would rather err on the side of safety.

In other business, the committee discussed sick leave issues for part-time city workers, with Drummond saying there’s some confusion because the fringe benefits ordinance for non-bargaining employees says part-time workers can accrue sick leave, but nowhere in the ordinance does it say they can use it and apparently some part-time positions in the city are using sick leave.

The committee took no action, but Drummond said he’ll ask the city auditor to determine how many part-time employees are using the sick leave now and what would it cost if all part-time employees could use it and what would it save if they could not use it.

Dickey questioned whether they were allowed to accrue it in order to be able to take time off but not get paid for the time off.

Drummond said he wants to modify the ordinance and list group benefits by each classification, such as full-time, part-time, incidental or seasonal, instead of using each benefit, such as sick leave, as a heading. He said that way, there would be no question on what benefits, if any, a part-time employee can receive.

There was also a question raised over the difference between part-time and permanent part-time. Dispatchers in the police department are referred to as permanent part-time. Mayor John Berlin suggested the title may be to differentiate between the permanent part-time dispatchers and those on the sub list. The ordinance specifically outlines the fringe benefits received by the dispatchers, specifically two personal paid eight-hour days off per calendar year.

Drummond said it should be up to the administration what path to take, whether to allow sick leave for all or for none when it comes to part-time workers.

Another meeting will be scheduled on the issue, possibly with the city auditor and the city law director asked to attend.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at