BALTIMORE — Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen is calling on the Department of Public Works to do better when it comes to collection services. Cohen wants management to to create a communication plan to share updates when it comes to delays in service.
"When we have trash day, trash should be picked up," said Cohen. "When we have recycling day, recycling should be picked up and if that is not going to be possible, given shortages, it needs to be communicated well in advance and there needs to be a plan."
Cohen sent a letter Friday to Acting DPW Director Matthew Garbark, requesting the department contract with outside providers until their workforce can be fully staffed.
Cohen's constituents and Baltimoreans alike told WMAR-2 News they've noticed trash and recycling pickup problems since the start of the pandemic.
"They've been coming later and later, if they even come at all," said one taxpayer in the Bayview neighborhood.
"It's been an issue," said DonnaAnn Ward. "I just take care of it myself. I have an SUV so I take the recycling up to the Citizen Street Station and I’ll pick up some neighbors recycling on the way and you know, it’s easy peezy lemon squeezy. It’s an easy fix."
Councilman Cohen said he's received dozens of calls from people who live in his district asking when their trash will be picked up.
In a response to Cohen's letter DPW said it's feeling the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its workforce after staffing shortages led to missed collections.
In a statement to WMAR-2 News DPW said:
"As you are aware DPW has been communicating consistently and constantly during this pandemic. We have continued to provide the most essential services each and every day. We recognize that trash collections is absolutely necessary and we will continue to perform that service. DPW Sanitation Workers are working under extraordinary circumstances. COVID-19 has impacted DPW Solid Waste Bureau more than any other Bureau in DPW.
We have a webpage that provides daily updates to residents. These updates are provided from the operations team who are also overseeing collections while responding to all complaints and issues with limited staff due to COVID-19, other unrelated illnesses and leave usage.
These updates are shared on social media platforms, with community leaders utilizing DPW 5 liaisons and support personnel in DPW’s Community Engagement Division daily and to all elected officials by DPW Legislative Affairs Team daily.
We have 3 Citizen Convenient Drop Off Centers that are available to City residents which have also been shared with City residents and elected officials.
Residents should and can also call 311 for missed collections.
DPW continues to explore options such as hiring laborers and drivers, contracting with companies and evaluating the possibility of strategically placing dumpsters in communities. We have two contractors coming on board to assist with collections in September and October.
We appreciate our elected officials promoting proper trash etiquette and resources available to their constituents such as the 3 Citizen Convenient Drop Off Centers.
We are not unlike other cities who are navigating through these same challenges.
We are all in this together and we need everyone to do their part!"