Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor
Let me talk trash. Beginning this past Thursday our trash problems began. Town hall staff received a high volume of calls from folks saying their trash had not been picked up. Some callers said the truck had failed to pick up the trash at the regular time. Other callers complained the truck just drove by their trash container.
We had a trifecta of problems that resulted in some collection problems especially on that Friday holiday. The trifecta was having three of our trash trucks experiencing major mechanical problems all at the same time. Crews were having to drive them back to the town yard for the mechanic to assess the problems. In the process crews did drive by some trash cans. Two trucks had to be taken for major repairs and were still in the shop at the first of this week. The other truck limped through the day with still recurring problems.
Trash trucks are very complicated and temperamental machines. One of the problem trucks was the oldest in the operating fleet of five. It is scheduled to be replaced in the coming months.
To respond to the situation, smaller trucks and personnel from other departments were mobilized to complete the routes. Some auxiliary crews were even working on Saturday.
When one thinks about it, we work the heck out of the garbage trucks. The town provides seven days a week garbage service between the residential and commercial sectors, including holiday collections except on Christmas Day and New Years. Very few waste disposal companies, if any, provide this level of service for the cost we charge. Between the residential and commercial routes our trucks pretty much operate daily between 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. At the end of every route, the trucks are driven to the Macon County Transfer Station on Rich Gap. The garbage is offloaded onto larger tractor trailer trucks that will then transport our trash some 20 miles to the Macon County Solid Waste Department. It is a costly process. The town also picks up cardboard and trucks it to directly to the county site in Franklin. The county then sells it to recycle companies. Highlands does not get money from cardboard sales.
The town sanitation department operates at barely a break even level. Some years, like the past, we have a deficit. So, it gets back to those cantankerous garbage trucks. They cost a lot of money and on any given day one may be out of service. To have three break down on the same day is unheard of, but it happened. The large number of folks in town for the Fourth of July added a sense of urgency to the problem.
I want to thank everyone for their understanding and patience. I also want to thank those customers who have already purchased the bear resist toters that the town board voted last August to require. On August 1 all customers hopefully will have converted to these toters. These toters with the lift bar will also help our workers avoid unnecessary back injuries by eliminating the need to manually lift and empty cans. An employee doing repetitive lifting about 600 times a day is an outdated operation that must be changed.