Hearing and responding to complaints

Published 9:55 pm Monday, October 19, 2009

On at least one issue, it seems the Suffolk City Council has heard residents loud and clear: Pickup and disposal of most residential bulk trash items should be simple and free.

A disastrously convoluted scheme requiring advance notification and payment for residential bulk trash disposal could finally be put to an end during council’s regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, a little more than three months after the same council instituted the program over the warnings and objections of a few city residents.

Since that program went into effect, piles of trash have sat for weeks on the sides of Suffolk roadways, and city officials have been exposed to a constant drumbeat of criticism for ending the practice of freely collecting bulk and yard waste.

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The last couple of weeks have brought indications that city leaders have had enough of the criticism and complaints. When council members first learned that the city is expected to have a budget surplus of more than $3 million from last year’s budget, one of the first things that was suggested was a repeal of the bulk waste charge and the program of notifications and prepayments to which residents were subjected in order to comply with the new charges.

City Council will vote Wednesday on whether to follow up on that recommendation and remove the fees for most residential bulk waste. The move would represent a win for Suffolk residents.

But residents also must pay careful attention to the city’s future budget plans. There is more than a good chance that Suffolk’s city council will look for a way to bring back the fees in coming budget cycles, attempting to use the economic uncertainties of the regional waste authority that is ultimately responsible for Suffolk’s trash as political cover for the new fees.

Citizens cannot allow the scapegoating of the Southeastern Public Service Authority to lead to or excuse lousy public service on the part of local government. But only their vigilance will adequately protect against that tendency.