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Port Arthur council trashes city’s waste collection, demands better plan

Port Arthur councilmembers are asking City Manager Ron Burton to submit a plan to make garbage pickup more expedient by the Oct. 27 regular meeting.

Councilmembers expressed frustration with the constant delays in service during this week’s regular session. District 4 Councilman Harold Doucet placed the issue on the agenda and called the delays “unacceptable.”

Doucet said past councils have authorized buying more trucks than what was requested because they did not want citizens to endure garbage not being picked up in a timely manner. He was also concerned some trucks may not be regularly maintained.

“We need to take a look at if we need to staff the garage in the operations center with mechanics who can fix this equipment and keep this equipment running,” he said. “Take a look at having a mechanic work the nightshift so if a vehicle during the day needs repair, we can work on it and have it running the next day. …

“After being delayed one week, we should have a solution to that. There’s no excuse to be late for garbage or trash pickup longer than one week.”

Citizens are “upset” with the slow service, Mayor Pro Tem Charlotte Moses said.

“I’ve gotten so many calls, and I’m pretty sure everyone else on council has,” she said. “We’ve got to do better. Our city employees are doing their best. … We’ve got to have a plan to execute better so our citizens don’t feel like we’re lax on our jobs.”

Burton was not immediately sure how many garbage trucks the city owns, but Doucet said in a past council meeting the city operates 12 trucks and hires 24 employees in its solid waste department to man them.

Said District 1 Councilman Raymond Scott: “We don’t want these dumping grounds in the city, which is going to make it look worse. If we need the money, let’s get the money.”

Funding for the solid waste department has been addressed in recent months with the addition of a $1.75 monthly fee per customer request for extra garbage pickup. That’s expected to generate an extra $365,000 per year for the city.

Port Arthur residents are also paying a $100 monthly fee for each extra commercial container, which city officials forecast will help generate $205,000 per year in more revenue to help repair or replace commercial containers in service for 91 accounts.

Burton said finances have not factored in delayed garbage service, but he did blame the delays partly on the limited availability of staff members to pick up garbage has during the coronavirus pandemic, which has also created the problem of more trash accumulating.

“During the COVID era, you find more people doing projects around the house,” Burton said. “The volume of trash increases. Nobody can go anywhere, so they find something to do.”

More structure and creativity, District 2 Councilman Cal Jones said, could help straighten out garbage service delays. Jones urged councilmembers and Burton to do “whatever it takes.”

“Either we’re going to maintain the equipment or we cannot maintain the equipment,” Doucet said. “Either way, we cannot allow garbage pickup to get off schedule more than one week.”

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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