, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

June 13, 2012

No quick fix to PA garbage delays

PORT ARTHUR — Help is on the way for the City of Port Arthur’s ailing garbage collection service, but it may be a while before it arrives.

The Port Arthur City Council approved the purchase of $1.4 million worth of equipment for the city’s public works department at Tuesday’s council meeting, including two new trucks for the residential garbage pick up service that, in the words of council member Derrick Freeman, is currently in “crisis mode.”

For the past four weeks, Port Arthur’s garbage pick up service has fallen behind by at least one or two days each week because the majority of city’s trucks have shown habitual mechanical failure caused by age, according to director of public works Ross Blackketter.

New trucks might not arrive to Port Arthur for another 2 months, according to Blackketter.

During the interim the city plans to lease four garbage trucks at the earliest date in July, which means, unless the old trucks can be kept running, the city could face two more weeks of delays.

The Cities of Nederland and Groves have lent their trucks to help Port Arthur meet their garbage pick-up schedule and councilmen have even volunteered to drive the vehicles if needed.

The City of Port Arthur had four of its ten truck fleet running at the end of the workday Tuesday but, as Blackketter explained to the council Tuesday, over the last month the number of operational trucks has been fluctuating as each day progresses.

“We started Friday with six trucks and we finished with two trucks,” said Blackketter.

According to the city employee, it has not been a total breakdown of the vehicles but a series of smaller mechanical problems that has caused the prolonged period of disrupted service.

“They will fix one issue and another one will break down and it is hard to keep straight all that is going on with them,” said Blackketter.

The public works director listed overheating, emission problems, mechanical arm failure and rats eating the wiring harnesses as problems that have landed the trucks in several different mechanic shops between Port Arthur and Houston.

“Sooner or later we are going to have to stop running out of things that can break,” said Blackketter. “We are replacing these trucks one piece at a time.”

The residential garbage trucks have a life of five to seven years. The oldest trucks in use in Port Arthur are eight years old.

According to Blackketter, equipment purchases for his department have fallen by the wayside because of tight budgets over the past few years.

Blackketter said if he could have two trucks in addition to the two purchased Tuesday night, then he would feel like the garbage pick up could be kept on schedule. The two residential garbage trucks purchased Tuesday cost $482,128.

“I wish we could just find the funds,” said Port Arthur Mayor, Deloris “Bobbie” Prince. “It’s worth really crunching some numbers so that we could get two more trucks.”

Blackketter advised purchasing two trucks each year in order to rotate out the failing equipment but added that doing so would mean doubling the equipment maintenance budget for his department.

“We got to fix it and we know it and we are ready to help you,” said council member for District 4, Harold Doucet. “Right now we are looking at whittling down the time of having the trucks away. The council is here to make sure you have what you need.”

When questioned how long he thought the delays to service would last Blackketter crossed his fingers for good luck and said, “We’ll see how it goes.”

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