POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 13, 2011
Question: I live in Hawaii Kai, and for the last few months, our household trash has not been picked up on the scheduled Wednesday, but a day late many times and, in one case, two days late. Also, the Saturday green/blue bin pickups occasionally don’t occur until Monday. In the 18 years I’ve lived here, the trash was always picked up on schedule without fail, except for the last few months. The city refuse department says it’s due to “equipment issues.” What is really causing this delay, as it’s never happened in the past?
Answer: The problem of delayed pickups — not just in Hawaii Kai, but in other neighborhoods as well — really is because of “equipment issues,” said Markus Owens, spokesman for the city Department of Environmental Services. Equipment refers basically to trucks.
“Refuse trucks are very complex vehicles with tons of moving parts that are subject to a great deal of wear and tear because of the continuous start-stop action between pickups,” he said.
It is uncertain whether delays will continue, he said, although eight new trash trucks, purchased for a total of about $1.9 million, are expected to be put in service soon.
These trucks have gone through a “rigorous inspection” by the Department of Facility Maintenance’s Automotive Equipment Services Division in Halawa and are to be released in a few days to the Refuse Division following a “driver familiarization” session, Owens said.
Asked about criticism by environmental activist Carroll Cox that the eight new trucks were sitting in the maintenance yard for months although dozens of trash trucks are inoperable, Owens said the new trucks are not “sitting idle.”
“Every city vehicle that comes in goes through the same scrutiny by (Automotive Equipment Services) before turning them over to the various city departments,” Owens said. “This is not like buying a Toyota and driving it off the lot and putting it into immediate service.”
He said AES workers go over each new vehicle “line item by line item, to make sure it meets and complies with all federal specifications.”
Regarding the number of vehicles “in the shop” awaiting repairs, Owens said the number varies day to day.
“Truck availability is currently impacted by a high volume of repairs,” he said, adding that crews are working to make repairs as quickly as possible.
Cox, who has a Sunday morning radio show (KWAI 1040 AM — carrollcox.com/index.htm) was told by the city that 60 of the city’s fleet of 155 trucks, which includes front loaders, side loaders, rear-end loaders, bulky-item trucks and manual service trucks, were inoperable as of the end of May.
That has resulted in hundreds of hours of overtime “because there are men who can’t go out and drive the trucks, because the trucks are broken,” Cox told us Tuesday. “No real explanation except they’re behind in maintenance.”
According to Owens, problems start at the beginning of the day, when not having enough operable trucks “severely sets collections operations back.”
“Various challenges encountered during daily operations and where we are in the city and what route breaks down and what time of day it is, all contributes to incomplete routes,” he said. “The uncollected carts could be hundreds to several thousand” in number.
In addition to older trucks being prone to breakdowns, purchases of replacement trucks were delayed to address bidder complaints about truck specifications, Owens said. Although those complaints have been resolved, additional new trucks won’t arrive for six to eight months.
To the person who found my car keys on Kailua Beach on the Fourth of July and was kind enough to drop them off at the Kailua Police Station. After talking to a lifeguard the next day, my wife drove by the police station and was so happy when told they had the keys! I would like to personally thank the person who turned in my keys. Please call me at 389-5141.
— David Swann