The City of Bloomington said pandemic-related workforce changes and different resident behaviors have caused brush and bulk waste to pile up at curbs around town. The public works department said in some parts of town the delay is a week or two.
“And I realize that a lot of people are at home. They have a lot of time on their hands and they’re doing projects and bringing stuff out to the curb. We’re working with a reduced workforce and we’re working with even more being brought out to the curb,” said City Manager Tim Gleason.
Garbage and recycling pickups are on schedule, said the city. Brush and bulk waste is behind. Bloomington also has reopened the Citizen Convenience Center to drop off recyclables.
When shelter-in-place and work from home practices began, the city sent half its public works staff home.
“The total reason behind that was trying to protect those employees and preserve the workforce, God forbid that COVID-19 was rampant in the community. It’s easy to cast aside brush and solid waste pickup. But garbage could become the disaster within the disaster,” said Gleason.
The city said it is considering whether to adjust collection staff in the face of higher-than-average volumes of trash, brush, recyclables and bulk waste, as it balances service with the need to protect the ability to deliver core services.
Staff promised a decision and more information on the issue soon as it determines whether staffing increases can happen safely.
“I guess what I am asking for is some patience. And, if you don’t mind, from that picture window as you see a garbage truck go by, wave to those guys out there doing this job every day. It’s frustrating for them as well that they can’t meet the needs of the community like they want to,” said Gleason.
The city said it is also evaluating the decision by considering a possible extension of Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order.
“We are still in the initial stage of this pandemic locally,” said Gleason. “We have to carefully consider whether bringing larger numbers of the workforce back at once to accommodate the large increase in volume at this point is the best course of action.”
Last year, the city also discussed a longer-term fix to the bulk waste and brush collection issue that the pandemic has complicated, said Gleason.
Town of Normal Impact
Town of Normal Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich said collection in that municipality is generally going smoothly.
“We might get behind a day or two, depending on the volume. The weather was good last weekend for instance, and more people were out and generating material for pickup, but on a week-to-week basis, we’re keeping up,” said Aldrich.
The town has suspended landscape waste pickup, said Aldrich, because it requires a contractor not deemed essential during the shutdown, and because that kind of collection involves some manual labor that could require contact with material set out for disposal and people in a crew working alongside each other.
Aldrich said the town has identified waste pickup as an essential service and is supplementing the two-week shift rotation of its workforce with people who would usually have street patching assignments this time of year. Aldrich said they are using street workers who came up through the trash division and have those skills.
“We are trying to honor the stay-at-home order and protect our workers,” said Aldrich.
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