Don’t be surprised if you see some new faces picking up your trash and recyclables in New Rochelle. Already residents have noticed the problems with snow removal, picking up Christmas trees and repairing potholes and now injuries and staff reductions have resulted in the City of New Rochelle reducing the number of sanitation routes from 9 to 8. Some days trucks are not leaving the City Yard until 8:30 a.m. not their usual 7:00 a.m. as managers struggle to staff trucks with a driver and 2 crew members. To make up the shortfall in men, temporary workers are being hired and workers are being pulled from other duty within the Department of Public Works.
UPDATE: Sources at DPW tell Talk of the Sound this City went back to 9 routes on Monday, the first work day after this story ran.
“This is the result in the continued reduction in the staffing levels of Public Works”, said City Manager Charles B. Strome who has been warning that continued budget cuts and personnel reductions would eventually start to impact service delivery in the City.
“There are many impacts of continued reductions in personnel levels”, said Strome. “The impacts are starting to be noticeable.”
Members of local 663 which includes sanitation workers have begun to feel the strain. One member who asked not to be identified said with many workers already out due to injuries the problem is being compounded as fewer workers have to do more with less.
Strome acknowledged there is a problem.
“Currently we have been cutting back to 8 trucks only when manpower loans do not allow for nine,” said Strome. “Unfortunately this is not uncommon.”
Pulling workers off other duties has impacted everything from leaf pickup, to Christmas tree removal to pothole repair. To catch up, the City is now contracting out with private companies to repair potholes which have been wrecking axels and damaging tires all over town.
Residents can do their part to help – organizing their trash as best they can to make it easier on the men to pick up on the curb or at the end of driveways, report problems to the City Managers office or become a SeeClickFixer and use your smart phones to photograph problems and transmit GPS coordinates to City Hall. Most of all, be patient. This was one of the worst Winters in many years, everything has been pushed back and the City has a brand new DPW Commissioner, Alex Turgis, who only started in December and is still getting his sea legs.
Some Local 663 members are concerned that the reduction of routes was done without proper, formal notification. Strome says the changes are temporary and no grievance has been filed.
The City is already struggling with a tight budget, a low fund balance or “rainy day fund”, dramatically increased pension costs from the New York State pension system. Six firefighters may lose their jobs come this summer.
Morale in the Department of Public Works has taken a double hit from the budget problems and staffing issues to the ongoing criminal investigation by the District Attorney which continues to widen. Fevang was brought back to White Plains for further investigation three weeks ago. Soon after several retired City workers including two foreman and a financial person were brought in from questioning suggested the investigation is now going back more than the two years of invoices delivered to the D.A. by Council Member Lou Trangucci who initiated the current investigation when he provided City records to investigators last year.
“Fevang is, according to one source “singing like a canary”. Other sources tell Talk of the Sound Fevang has vowed that if he goes down he is taking everyone down with him. One thing seems apparent, what began with as investigation of one invoice for one garbage truck and one person has now spread and gone much deeper. Talk of the Sound has additional information about the scope and nature of the investigation but we do not want to publish anything that might hinder the investigation at this point. Stay tuned.