Management considering two pick ups a year

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

Officials with the City of Alice hope a new plan for brush pick up that combines keeping a better schedule and educating the public will address concerns from residents.

The city's current plan divides the town up into eight sections, and work crews are scheduled to pick up brush in each of those sections quarterly.

City Manager Albert Uresti said Tuesday the city has not been able to maintain that schedule for some time, which has led staff to re-evaluate the process.

"A lot of it is the city's fault, because we have never implemented a stringent schedule," Uresti said.

The city initially considered hiring an outside company to conduct a one-time clean up effort in the city, but Uresti said estimates from companies ran as high as $500,000.

Instead, Uresti authorized more than $3,500 in overtime for city brush crews, who worked four Saturdays in late August and early September, in an effort to get back on schedule.

The city council also authorized the purchase of a new $85,000 brush truck for the 2007-2008 Fiscal Year Budget, and Uresti said that truck will help crews work more efficiently.

Although working those Saturdays did help, Uresti said the complete system needs to be reconsidered to better meet the needs of residents.

Uresti said the plan currently being considered by the city involves a multi-tiered approach, with a new schedule, better education of the public and the implementation of a new city ordinance.

Under the new plan, work crews will still go throughout the city year-round, but will only pickup in each section twice a year.

"We're still refining the plan, but at this point our plan is to do two brush pickups per year," Uresti said. "We're not really reducing the number of pickups, we're just making a more realistic plan."

One of the problems facing the city, Uresti said, is that often once the crews go through a neighborhood and pick up brush, some residents in that neighborhood cut brush the following weekend and stack it in front of their homes. That brush then sits for months, leading to complaints from residents.

Under the new plan, the city will advertise two weeks in advance that crews are coming to a particular area, which will be an indication to residents that they should begin cutting their brush.

That advertisement will take place on the city's new public access channel, once it is functional, and work crews will place notices on the doors of residents in the sections that are scheduled for pick up.

Uresti said he also intends to present the city council with an ordinance that will allow the city to fine residents who pile brush in front of their homes outside of their scheduled pickup times.

Residents who wish to avoid a fine would have the option of waiting until their neighborhood is scheduled for pickup, taking the brush to the dump themselves or calling the city to pick up the brush for a fee.

The city will also schedule a once-a-year pickup for any type of debris.

Uresti said he hopes the new plan will be implemented by the beginning of the year, and that the residents and the city can work together to solve what has been a longtime problem in the city.

"We're going to educate the public as to what we're going to do," Uresti said. "And, of course, for the city's part we're going to have to stick to our schedule. If we don't stick to our schedule we can't expect the citizens to stick to the schedule."