The city of Palm Bay retrieves trash bins from homes that are delinquent on bills, close accounts or move elsewhere.
Palm Bay, FL (Florida Today) -- Matt Hanline slows his well-worn white Chevy pickup - flipping on a
flashing rooftop light bar - on a street speckled with homes. He checks a
list at his side, rolls down his window and leans out to check the
There are no criminals to collar. No drugs to confiscate. No people calling for help.
a highlighter-yellow safety vest, this city worker heads toward the
curb. He wants trash carts, grayishtubswith yellow or teal lids left
behind by former customers and, more rarely, held hostage by delinquent
Navy has Seal Team 6, I have Recovery Team 6," says Barney Weiss,
Hanline's boss and Palm Bay Public Works division director. Managing the
city's trash cart program falls under Weiss' umbrella of duties.
routine is part of efforts Palm Bay makes to keep track of enough trash
bins to provide service to citizens. That inventory has dwindled,
leaving an uncomfortably small buffer of extra carts at times and
forcing new customers to wait up to three weeks for a bin.
having a lot of trouble trying to maintain our carts," City Manager Sue
Hann told the city council during a budget workshop last month. "We're
having trouble servicing new customers and that's kind of what we're
worried about. We want to be sure we have a sufficient inventory."
comes after the city spent $2.6 million in 2010 to buy 76,000 carts in
conjunction with a new 10-year contract with Waste Management to handle
the city's trash and recycling collection. In an attempt to cut costs -
as well as ensure that carts had a uniform appearance - the city decided
to purchase the carts and distribute them itself rather than letting
Waste Management handle it, as it does with other cities.
about 5 percent, or 4,400 carts, are missing, out of commission or
tethered to delinquent accounts. That reflects some improvement: In
August 2012, city officials reported about 8 percent, or 6,200 carts,
has made moves to replenish supply. In the last fiscal year, wiggle
room in the budget was used to buy 1,680 carts at about $43 for garbage
and $46 for recycling. Stacked in twelves, the new bins were unloaded
at Palm Bay Public Works last week. Fearing a further dwindling supply,
they set aside money to buy 2,000 more carts this budget year.
The city council recently discussed other ways to stop the disappearing act.
Every household has at least two carts, one for trash and a second for recyclables. Homeowners can ask for additional carts.
city requires a $30 refundable deposit only for the first set of carts
rented to each household. Homeowners pay 50 cents a month to rent any
additional carts, a dime hike over last year's rate.
At a recent meeting, Vice Mayor Kristine Isnardi suggested a deposit for a households that want additional carts.
we should have gotten into the cart business, we're all probably
thinking it was not the smartest move in hindsight," she said. "We did
want to make the city look nice, we did get the carts for an extremely
low price, low interest rate, the whole nine. But we are in the mess
William Capotesaid the city should not continue its role as cart-renter;
suggesting that residents pay the 50 cents per month fee until they pay
off - and own - the carts. Then, new city residents could buy bins
that this 10 cents is going to become another 10 cents and another 10
cents. ... The disappearing act that these carts do is going to
continue," he said at the meeting.
Isnardi said that approach would make the city "cart police" and increase potential for neighborhood trash cart thefts.
Where are the carts going?
city staffer found some while cycling through Malabar. Weiss has seen
his bins - a bright-white Palm Bay emblem on the side distinguishes them
- in the back of landscaping trucks. Hanline has cruised past homes
where five carts stand outside. A call to dispatch and check of each
cart's serial number reveals one thing: neighbors are stealing
few are always waiting to be picked up from homes where accounts have
been closed. They'll be cleaned and given to a new customer.
where Hanline comes in. At the target house in southwest Palm Bay, he
wheels the 64-gallon bins toward a yellow steel trailer. He heaves in
his two recoveries.
"It's like we just saved a missing soldier," Weiss says.