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Syracuse officials debate next course of action for trash collection pilot program

Trash on the side of the road in Syracuse.
Chris Bolt
Bags of trash are seen scattered on the lawn in front of a Syracuse home.

The Syracuse Common Council has thrown out a proposed $600,000 agreement with a subcontractor for a trash collection pilot program. Councilors withdrew the plan with Waste Management of New York after they raised numerous questions about why it was needed. The city is moving toward overhauling its trash collection system using partially automated trucks with arms that would empty new trash carts. Councilor Michael Greene said the city should be testing its own equipment in select neighborhoods.

"For me, if we're very concerned that these are going to break down frequently, I want to know that now, during the pilot. I want to know that if we're unable to handle one route, we should never be going to fifteen routes. So I think it was an important thing for us to get that firsthand knowledge on our equipment, so that's what I would urge the administration to pursue," he said.

Greene also said using a contractor’s employee on a truck with different equipment that is not owned by the city just did not make sense to him or other councilors. Walsh Administration officials have said the plan was to use the contractor for one year in different neighborhoods to gather data before rolling it out city-wide with the city’s own staff and equipment. Chief Policy Officer Greg Loh said using city workers will delay implementation.

"That's not a project that we want to try and implement in winter months at a time when our city staff are already under heavy demand for snow removal. So, our goal is to continue to find a path toward using a subcontractor so that it creates as little impact as possible," Loh said.

Loh added that using a subcontractor would give the city more flexibility to keep crews focused on plowing roads and repairing trucks. The city has about half the mechanics it needs despite offering higher pay. Loh said the council's goal is to create a trash collection system that’s safer for workers and more reliable and effective for residents.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at