Montgomery County Council President Rose Crenca really could empathize with her Silver Spring constituents who were inundating her home and office this week with complaints that their trash wasn't being picked up. Three of the last four times trash was placed outside her Flower Avenue home, Crenca said, it stayed there.
"I am being inconvenienced," Crenca announced at the start of yesterday's council session, causing Environmental Protection Director John L. Menke to be summoned from his executive offices.
Menke and Lenus D. Barnes, chief of the department's collection section, reported that two firms that have county contracts for trash collection in the Silver Spring area have been having difficulty hiring and retaining enough trash haulers.
The result, Menke said, has been some significant problems of trash not being picked up on the days scheduled. He denied reports that some neighborhoods went weeks without pickup. He said some residents have had large accumulations of trash because, when their trucks don't come on the scheduled day, they remove the trash from the curb and miss the trucks when they arrive the next day.
Barnes estimated that about 40,000 homes at most may have experienced some problems. Both he and Menke said the two contractors, Laidlaw Waste Systems Inc. and Browning Ferris Industries, are working on the problem and the situation is improving.
Laidlaw fired more than 20 employes last March during a strike.
"It is not a total breakdown or a threat of a breakdown," Menke said. He said the companies are having trouble retaining their work force partly because collecting trash is a hard and unattractive job, particularly in the sweltering heat of recent days. He said that the construction industry is drawing workers away. Trash haulers are paid an average of $8 an hour.
Barnes said the labor problem is common in the trash-removal industry. The other problem cited by Menke is the need for the two contractors to subcontract some of their work because of a county requirement that there be 10 percent participatiion by minority firms. BFI, Menke said, has had some problems with the performance of its subcontractors. One subcontractor, he said, lasted two days.
New crews are unfamiliar with their routes and that causes delays and missed pickups. Barnes said he thought the problem should be resolved sometime next week.
Menke advised residents that if their trash is not picked up on the scheduled day to leave it at the curb and to call the county's complaint line at 251-2410. Crenca, noting that the line is frequently busy and doesn't operate at night or weekends, said she is getting the calls. She suggested people call County Executive Sidney Kramer.