New Janesville garbage system going well, but winter is coming

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Marcia Nelesen
Thursday, June 27, 2013

— Residents and operators are becoming more comfortable with Janesville’s new automated garbage collection, and the city’s operation director said the switch from a manual system went well.

“We’ve very happy with how things have gone,” John Whitcomb said.

Residents have until the end of June to exchange their garbage carts for a different size without being charged a $15 delivery fee.

After June, customers can still exchange carts but will be charged $15 if the city must deliver and pick up a cart.

Janesville began its automated garbage collection system April 29.

An advisory automated trash committee comprising representatives from different groups was dissolved Tuesday, and members also gave the new system good marks, Whitcomb said.

“There was a sense of satisfaction among group members that the group was effective in getting the message out that needed to get out and focusing on certain groups … who would perhaps be impacted the most,” Whitcomb said.

For example, the representative from the senior center reported that many seniors initially were unhappy about the upcoming change but now give it a thumbs up.

Residents could choose between 95-gallon carts or 65-gallon carts before the switch.

Once collection began, however, the city required residents to use the carts a month before asking to switch.

“What we learned from other communities was most become accustomed to whatever was delivered to them,” Whitcomb said.

Initially, about 1,500 residents called to switch carts, and most requested the smaller size.

About 500 called after the waiting period.

Distribution of the new carts will take about five to six weeks, Whitcomb said.

Since the switch, more disabled people also have called for help in getting their garbage to the curb, Whitcomb said.

The city is required to make “reasonable accommodations” for disabled people, Whitcomb said.

Just under 100 residents get help from the city, and the process to get that help includes a doctor’s certificate.

The change to automated services went as expected based on experiences in other cities, Whitcomb said.

“It’s been a learning curve for the operators, as well as the customers,” he said.

Most operators appreciate that they no longer have to lift heavy, smelly carts in muggy weather. The city has predicted the new system will greatly reduce worker’s compensation claims and costs.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t issues, such as initial slowness.

“The first week of collection was pretty interesting,” Whitcomb said.

There were a few broken carts and some issues with trucks that were retrofitted with new equipment.

The operators have yet to reach the expected level of efficiency, “but we see constant improvements on an almost daily basis,” Whitcomb said.

“And that’s what we heard from other communities,” Whitcomb said. “It’s kind of a ‘shock and awe’ phase. After program implementation, it’s, ‘Oh, this is pretty simple.’”

The next challenge is using the carts during winter, Whitcomb said.

Mostly, that will mean keeping an area clear of snow for the carts on terraces near the curb line or in driveways. Residents who put them in the street must be sure plows won’t come through that day.

Cart wheels should be wide enough to negotiate a typical snowfall, Whitcomb said.

Whitcomb spreads the credit for the smooth transition.

“I can’t imagine implementing a program that affects every single household in a community—distributing 47,000 individual assets with special serial numbers, buying new equipment and training—I can’t imagine that it could have gone much better.

“I think our customers have done a great job in adapting to this system and informing themselves on what they need to do in particular,” Whitcomb said.

Last updated: 7:56 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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