Elissa Yount: Cleaning up after the city

It is one thing to clean up for the city, but when you have to clean up after the city, that is asking too much.

Most everyone in the city has to pick up litter along the streets that others have thrown out. We cannot expect the litter control workers in the city to get everything. There was a time when a crew consistently and regularly picked up trash along Beckford Drive. That is the only place in the city I can recall seeing city workers actually picking up debris. When Dabney Drive or Corbitt Road or William Street get attention, it usually comes from citizen intervention.

For example, in the summer, when the city cuts the railroad bank, the mowers mow over the litter. Occasionally other workers come along and pick up the trash that was thrown and cut by the mowers. Maybe this is the most efficient way to do this, but it does not seem so. Other than that, I have never seen any city worker pick up litter along the streets in my neighborhood. That is why most of us pick up the litter ourselves.

So, when I say we do not mind cleaning up for the city, this is what I am referring to. But, when it comes to cleaning up after the city, that is another matter.

Let me give you very clear examples. Last week the yard debris that we put on the curb to be picked up was removed in a timely manner, which we appreciate. But the mess left in the street was left to either wash down to the storm drain or for us to clean up. I have watched the city workers in Greensboro and in Chapel Hill, and they do not leave messes. I have seen them use brooms, rakes, or shovels to clear the roadway after they have picked up yard debris. They leave nothing to wash into the storm drains.

The storm drains in our city seldom, if ever, are given any attention. Most keep piles of trash and litter on the top of their covers. We were promised that when the sanitation services were privatized, more workers would be left to tend to our city. Where is this attention? Edging sidewalks and cutting sewer right-of-ways need more than this kind of “attention” — they need action.

The street sweeper that the city owns can do more that sweep and wash streets. It can vacuum trash. Has it ever been used for this purpose? Does the sweeper keep to a schedule? The excuse that you cannot sweep streets during leaf season is just that, an excuse. What better time to sweep the street clean than after the leaves have been removed? Citizens cannot be expected to do this job for the city.

Here is another example. It was many years ago that the city took off the cast iron covers to the water valves in the street on Chavasse Ave. and left them on the sidewalk. This might have been when they were uncovering a storm drain that had been paved over — a problem that was contributing to flooding at the intersection during even a little rain fall. Anyhow, the covers lay on the side of the street for months and finally they disappeared. Someone probably picked them up for salvage. The city was notified when the covers were left off and many times after that. The valves had no covers but nothing was done. Years passed, and a few weeks ago the city came to replace the valve covers and do the work that an ounce of prevention would have cured.

It is almost certain that this job was complicated by the fact that the infrastructure is so old.

Here comes another part of the problem. After the work was done, the work site was left littered with cups from Hardee’s and other debris. Now unless a group of people decided to camp out on the corner and leave their trash, it would appear that the city workers did not clean up after themselves and left it for others to do. While this may be the exception rather than the rule, it made an impression.

Our city workers work hard, and I appreciate what they do for the little money they are paid. Where is management in this picture — the ones getting the bug bucks? First, management should not have allowed the valves to be left uncovered. Second, management should be checking work sites and setting the standard that you leave things better than you found them while enforcing the policy that litter, cigarette butts, and trash not be left behind. Third, management should be looking around to see what else needs to be done to maintain high quality in the city and to make plans to work smarter, not harder. It only takes a little supervision to correct problems. Since the city does not have sanitation crews to supervise, we expect a little more attention to keeping our city viable.

They promised us they would have the money to do this.