Bureaucracy moves slowly, sometimes taking years to act. Online complaints, on the other hand, take just minutes or days to raise a ruckus.
Both trends came together when Wilmington recently told the owners of about a dozen buildings that the city would no longer collect their trash or their recycling.
City code, as revised in 2014, limits trash collection to single-family homes and other dwellings with four or few units, such as apartments or condos.
In 2017, the city announced that it had reviewed about 20,000 trash and recycling accounts and determined that 97 of them were commercial accounts and should not have had free city trash collection.
That list included condos, apartments, nonprofits, houses of worships, schools and daycares.
On Jan. 1, 2018, the city cut them off, sent them to private haulers and said it would save $200,000 a year by doing so.
The new review of the situation led to the same results, affecting a smaller – but vocal – crowd.
“The city code clearly says that the city should be collecting residential only,” John Rago, deputy chief of staff for policy and communication, said in response to the latest change.
That’s not what people posting on a new Nextdoor thread wanted to hear, and it doesn’t matter that the free collection has – unlawfully – been going on for years, maybe decades.
Complaints about trash
“There’s got to be more to this!” Nancy Kavanaugh wrote. “Ridiculous.”
“How does the city justify withholding one of its services from us, especially one as important to the environment as recycling?” Christopher Bell wrote. “They should be ashamed of themselves.”
Multiple people complained that their taxes should cover trash collection and recycling.
They vowed to complain – but none of the dozens of posts on the thread showed any hope of reprieve from formal complaints.
An additional problem is that the city no longer operates front-end lifter trucks to handle the containers used by some multiunit structures, Rago said.
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“Our intent is not to cause any hardships, but Wilmington’s charter and code are very clear in that city government collects trash and recyclables from residential properties only,” Mayor Mike Purzycki said in 2017.
The most likely scenario is that rents and condo fees will increase to pay for private collection.
“Our monthly fees just went up 9%, so now a portion goes to trash/recycling collection,” Nancy Ford wrote.
Brian Lamborn lives in one of the condos that lost garbage collection a few years ago.
“It cost us substantially to hire our own trash removal company,” he wrote.
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