The stink at City Hall is beginning to spread, according to some city residents dissatisfied with missed trash pickups. A recent hiring freeze and a moratorium on overtime has left trash festering as city garbage crews struggle to keep up.
"My husband noticed a couple of weeks ago," says Richmond resident Vickie Beatty, who says her husband got fed up with the trash lingering at the curb and stopped to talk to a city garbage collector recently. "What he was told is that they're not allowed to do overtime anymore. So when it's 5 p.m., they're done."
It's a story confirmed by "Oscar," a trash man who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal by city officials. "I've been picking up trash for 15 years -- BFI, Waste Management, the big guys," says Oscar, calling Richmond Public Works "unorganized and crazy." "Now that they've cut out the overtime, we have to leave the trash -- you never finish."
He says that Thursday's route started by picking up the last of Wednesday's route ("We spent two hours on that") and that on Friday at least an hour will be spent on Thursday's leftover trash.
"They won't hire no-more-body," Oscar says of an apparent hiring freeze in the department. "And they won't put no more trucks on the street."
City spokesman Linwood Norman referred questions to the Department of Public Works. Britt Drewes, a spokesman with the Department of Public Works, said there is no moratorium or hiring freeze.
"Overtime as a financial expense is closely managed," Drewes says. "There is an approval process for working overtime. Specifically, routes within the city are divided so they can be accomplished within a normal eight-hour day."
City resident Norma Pierce says she's noticed spotty service over the past two weeks, but says she's satisfied with the city's overall service.
"You could say it this way: Two times in three weeks they haven't come on the appointed day," she says. "Or you could say it this way: Two times in 20 years they haven't come on time. In my mind, it isn't an issue yet."
But Beatty worries.
"It's constant catch-up" from the missed routes, she says. "It's constantly trying to catch up, which means it's never going to happen."
"They're just trying to cut everything," he says, suggesting he might just help them along. "I'm getting ready to leave, man."
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