For two solid weeks, Sandy Rothman, an interior designer in Montgomery County's Cabin John neighborhood, has been trying to get her trash picked up. Yesterday, fed up with promises from county officials and excuses from trash crews, Rothman marched into the Rockville offices of County Executive Sidney Kramer and deposited a green plastic bag full of garbage there.
"Since no one will come out and get it, I thought I would bring it to you," Rothman told Kramer's startled receptionists.
Rothman, accompanied by a neighbor also bearing garbage and reporters who had been tipped off in advance, are among homeowners in Montgomery's Cabin John, Bethesda and Seven Locks area who have been overlooked when the county switched trash contractors.
"People expect at least one thing from their government: to pick up the trash. And, when it doesn't, we hear about it," said Peggy Fitzgerald-Bare, whose boss, County Council member Bruce T. Adams (D), was deluged with complaints this week.
"The situation is unacceptable," said Edward Graham, director of the county's Office of Environmental Protection.
"Inexcusable," said Walter Davenport, division manager for Laidlaw Waste Systems Inc., which took over trash pickup for an estimated 17,000 homes on July 1.
According to Davenport and county officials, problems arose because new collectors don't know their routes well enough; pickup days were changed; and some crews just performed badly.
Problems may have been compounded by the fact that there was no pickup on July 4 and there wasn't, as usual, a make-up day.
Graham said there are always problems when the county makes a switch in service but said he doesn't know whether the latest round was more troublesome than most. Officials said 850 to 1,700 homeowners may have experienced some problems, with 600 homes overlooked.
"I was patient the first week but the second week really got to me," said Rothman, who said her breaking point came when she tried to leave her house and was frightened back by two large rats.
"That did it for me," she said. Rothman said the idea for her dumping garbage in Kramer's office came about when she told her husband she was going to make a run to the county transfer station with 20 bags and two large metal cans of trash. "He said, 'Why should you do that? It's not your job,' " Rothman said.
So Rothman and Judy Mobsik took time off from work and showed up at the Executive Office Building toting the trash bags.
Kramer was reported to be in Annapolis, but a contingent of county offficials met with the women. In the midst of the meeting, word came that county crews were at that moment picking up their trash.
"It's not just us," Mobsik lectured.
Graham said county officials believed most of the major problems had been resolved. People having trash pickup problems are advised to call 217-2410 during business hours.
As for Rothman's and Mobsik's trash -- last seen sitting in Kramer's reception area -- Alan Bergsten, chief of the county's trash division, said he "personally" would take care of it.
Staff writer Beth Kaiman contributed to this report.