Members of the Warren County Health and Welfare Committee discussed discontinuing the use of community service workers at the fairgrounds convenience center, but failed to make a decision.
Sanitation Department director Steve Hillis informed members of the committee his department is receiving phone calls from people who are upset because convenience center workers do not empty their trash for them.
County Executive John Pelham said he has also received calls from people saying someone at the convenience center just sat there and didn’t offer to get out and help.
“I try to explain to them that our people are actually instructed not to unload because of issues we’ve had in the past with people hurting their backs, etc.,” said Pelham. “Our people are not ignoring citizens when they pull up. They are not being lazy. They are simply abiding by the instructions that have been given to them which is to not get hurt, don’t hurt your back and don’t get injured. Unloading someone else’s trash is not what they are there for.”
The fairgrounds location is the only convenience center that has community service workers. There is no guarantee of what days they will be helping.
“Since school went back, we don’t have many community service workers because most are in school,” said Hillis. “Years ago, everybody unloaded themselves. Now people come by when it’s raining and they blow their horn. They don’t want to get out in the rain, but they want our people to get out in the rain.”
“If our workers unloaded everyone’s trash all day long, they wouldn’t be living by the end of the day. I’m talking about 12-15 tons and heavy bags and 55 gallon drums,” continued Hillis. “I would constantly be having a new crew come in if we allowed that. We have safety meetings about this too. What if someone gets pricked by a needle? There’s no telling what someone could get from that. We don’t know what’s in those bags and that’s another reason we don’t allow them to lift someone’s trash.”
Commissioner Blaine Wilcher asked, “Is there any way to maybe put a sign up stating ‘No community helpers today’ or something on days when you don’t have any extra workers?”
Commissioner Sally Brock said if all the community helpers do is unload, then maybe the county shouldn’t take them. “Maybe we shouldn’t even have those kids there,” she said. “We shouldn’t let them work out there anymore and we should post signs saying ‘Our employees are prohibited from unloading trash due to regulations.’”
Hillis said the county is going to have to do something. “My people are getting chewed out and cussed out for doing what they are told to do,” he said. “It’s their garbage and they are responsible for it. After it gets in that compactor, then we are responsible for it. Getting it there from point A to point B is their responsibility.”
Hillis said if residents have a 50-pound bag that’s too heavy to lift, they can break that down to several smaller, lighter bags.
“If an elderly lady pulls up there, and I feel sorry for her too, but if you have a whole line of cars behind her and they see us unload that one car, people get mad and say ‘Well, you unloaded them, you need to unload me’. That’s what we get into,” said Hillis.
Commissioner Billy Earl Jones pointed out that no county employee was available to load the garbage into that person’s vehicle at home. So they should be able to unload it at the convenience center.
“Who loaded their cars for them? They should bring that person with them to the trash place and let them unload it,” said Jones.