Small Area Exempt From Trash Changes

July 18, 2009|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,annie.linskey@baltsun.com

Although most Baltimoreans have to store their garbage on their own premises for six full days now that the new "one plus one" schedule of weekly trash collection has started, residents in one small part of the city were exempt - leading others to cry foul.

Those who live downtown and in Mount Vernon continue to enjoy twice-a-week collection plus the traditional extra perk of twice-a-week recycling. Call it two plus two.

The bounty of refuse collection service in that area, well-known to lawmakers and often discussed in City Council meetings, was news to many residents who began closely eyeing the new trash pickup routes for the first time this week as the schedule changes took effect.

"It is not fair," said Peggy Hudson of Northeast Baltimore, one of several residents that have been calling elected leaders to give them an earful. "I am in Baltimore City, I am getting one day trash pickup. They are in Mount Vernon. Why is it they are getting it twice?"

The answer is rooted in an 18-year-old agreement between the city and the leaders of downtown and Mount Vernon that pulled the area out of the regular trash collection routes, said Celeste D'Amato, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

The area, heavy with commuter traffic, needed evening pickup instead of morning pickup like the rest of the city.

But since the area was not part of the old schedule, it was not part of the massive overhaul of collection routes that public works planners put in place as part of the new system.

At least for now.

"We didn't want to hit this area with this change while we're trying to do everything else," said D'Amato. "We're looking at it. ... We are getting a lot of pressure to consider changing downtown. We'd like to see them move to one plus one."

Residents in the area do have to comply with new the 96-gallon limit on trash, D'Amato said.

Downtown leaders hope their area will keep twice-weekly pickup. "No other part of the city has the density and the concentration of buildings that downtown has," said Kirby Fowler, the president of the Downtown Partnership.

Fowler said that downtown businesses already pay $2 million for additional private services. "I really don't get the fairness issue," he said, pointing out that if the businesses were not chipping in for private collection the city would have to do that.

But community leaders in other parts of the city are unconvinced. "We can't have the message that certain people are getting trash picked up twice a week," said Councilman Nicholas D'Adamo. "I don't want the message getting out - that is the wrong message."

Baltimore Sun reporter Meredith Cohn contributed to this article.

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