TAMPA — Changes to garbage routes this month caused confusion and piles of smelly trash at some homes and evoked a resistance in at least one neighborhood.
Calls to the solid waste department were "significantly up," said Tonja Brickhouse, the city's director of solid waste, after changing routes that had been in place since 1986. "When you do changes of this magnitude, there are bound to be problems."
The new routes came as the city also completed a change from manual to fully automated pickup.
Not everyone was happy about that.
Neighbors in Old Seminole Heights were issued blue carts last month with notes attached that said solid waste workers would no longer pick up trash in narrow back alleys, as they had in the past. Residents would now have to take their carts to the front street so automated trucks could empty them.
More than 200 people signed a petition to keep alley pickup, said Cathy Simon, who is on a newly formed garbage collection committee in the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association.
"We do not want to see trash cans lining our streets. It's extremely unattractive," Simon said. "They won't take away our alleys without a fight."
The committee met with Brickhouse two weeks ago to ask for continued alley service. They also want their recycling, which is currently picked up from the front, to be picked up from the back. Simon wants to see closed alleys in Seminole Heights opened for trash pickup, as well.
Aside from Old Seminole Heights, Brickhouse said she has met with homeowners from other neighborhoods who also want continued alley service.
While their requests are considered, collectors continue to pick up bins from their alleyways.
But Brickhouse said aesthetics should not be a reason to continue the service. Many of the alleys are unsafe and overgrown with trees. Also, some trucks are too big to fit. Because they are smaller, back alleys require semi-automated trucks with two workers, one to drive and another to move the bin next to the truck for flipping, which makes the service more expensive. Fully automated trucks are equipped with an arm that takes the place of the second worker and require only a driver.
"The rest of the city doesn't want to subsidize this," Brickhouse said. She planned to update City Council members of the situation this week.
Simon said her neighbors initially didn't know about the changes, including the dates for pickup and details such as how to bundle yard waste. They were putting out trash and it wasn't picked up, she said. She watched as collectors drove around trying to find their new routes.
Brickhouse expects that drivers will have the nuances of their routes down by this week.
Most complaints that filtered into the office over the past few weeks came from callers who were unaware of their new pickup dates, Brickhouse said, despite notices mailed in utility bills, reverse 911 calls and Facebook and Twitter alerts.
"Garbage doesn't become a major issue until it doesn't get picked up," she said.
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.