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With Recycling Collection Still Bi-Weekly, Councilman Schleifer Suggests Fining DPW Director For Code Violations

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- With recycling pickup in Baltimore City still on an every-other-week schedule, Councilman Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer on Monday suggested the city levy fines on the head of the Department of Public Works for code violations.

Schleifer, who represents District 5, blasted the "double standard" where taxpayers are fined for having recycling or trash on their property but the agency tasked with collecting it faces no recourse for the reduced service and missed collections that contribute to litter.

When trash is not collected or recycling starts to pile up, animals can get into cans and bins and spread their contents, he said.

In proposing fines for DPW Director Jason Mitchell, Schliefer cited the part of city code that says the agency is responsible for "the collection of recyclable materials once a week."

"The violation of the city code by DPW goes unpunished, yet the consequence and burden on our residents of DPW in violating the city code results in financial penalties," Schleifer said.

Bi-weekly recycling has led to reduced participation and increased trash, he claimed, and DPW workers are not receiving extra compensation for longer shifts.

The councilman also called on DPW to release a short-term planning for returning to weekly recycling collection.

According to a draft agenda for Monday night's council meeting, Schleifer plans to introduce a bill creating a penalty for the DPW director if the agency does not meet the weekly recycling collection requirement.

A spokesperson for DPW said the agency is aware of the bill and anticipates having all solid waste services except weekly recycling restored to pre-pandemic levels by the end of July.

"It is the goal of the Administration, as it is the goal of the Baltimore City Council, to resume weekly recycling and all other solid waste services as soon as possible," said Yolanda Winkler, DPW's chief of communications and strategic alliances. "However, services will only be restarted if they can be performed safely, effectively, timely, and equitably; that is, with fully trained workers, without delays, and throughout the entire City."

In a May statement, the agency said the temporary shift to bi-weekly recycling collection -- in place since January -- has helped crews complete 100% of their routes and made pickup more predictable.

The change was made at the start of the year after an increase in COVID-19 cases among workers led to service disruptions. During one seven-day period during the holidays where an average of 228 employees were out, the agency said.

In the early stages of the pandemic, DPW suspended curbside recycling pickup in June 2020, citing staff shortages, and didn't resume operations until Jan. 19, 2021.

"I want to thank Baltimore City residents for their continued patience as the Department continues to assess our Solid Waste operations," said Mitchell. "The temporary change to bi-weekly recycling collections has helped the Department manage recycling collections for the short-term and to better support solid waste services impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic."

DPW said it will assess its recycling routes and use software to  determine the best way for crews to complete their runs.

The technology tracks routes serviced per vehicle, helps the agency make real-time adjustments to collections and gauges performance with mobile GPS, a spokesperson said.

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