Robert Wheeler sat on a lawn chair in his front yard across from Corbin Park and watched the city’s new garbage truck strut its stuff by picking up cans on either side of the 33,000-pound vehicle.
“So this is the future of alley pickup?” Wheeler asked.
It is. And the concept of dropping alley pickup around Spokane is in the past.
City officials made that clear, as they showed off a new $320,000 Peterbilt “two-armed” garbage truck at “ground zero” of the 2007 political storm over trash.
Two years ago, the city announced – with little advance warning – it was ending alley trash pickup as a way to save money. Some alleys were narrow, others had low-hanging utility lines or long garage roof overhangs; making two passes through them in a two-person truck that only could grab cans on the left side was expensive and difficult, city officials said.
The city started with North Side neighborhoods, including the area around Corbin Park. The neighborhoods protested, and the city’s handling of trash pickup became one of the issues in that fall’s election.
Wednesday, city officials and Mayor Mary Verner, who ousted incumbent Dennis Hession to win that contentious election, made a point of demonstrating a new one-person truck that can grab up cans on either side, thus making a single pass down an alley.
Public Works Director Dave Mandyke said one of the new trucks will handle trash and the other will handle yard waste as soon as enough drivers get trained on the rigs. It’s not clear yet whether the city will buy more two-armed trucks for street pickups, he said, because weaving back and forth on a wider street to take advantage of the arms on each side might not save as much time and fuel.
After driver Duane Cooper alternated hoisting the cans on each side of the truck, Verner climbed into the cab and, with prompting from Cooper, managed the joy stick well enough to pick up and dump one can.
The change back to alley pickup was a customer-service issue, Verner said later. Hauling trash to the street was inconvenient for residents and unsightly for the neighborhood, she said.
“This is what the citizens wanted, and it makes financial sense,” she said.
Neighborhood leaders were also invited into the cab, including Gina McKenzie, who helped lead the garbage revolt after coming home one day to find notice of the impending change on her front door. Wednesday, however, she was all smiles.
“I think it’s great when governments listen to the constituents,” McKenzie said.