Urbana garbage haulers too loud for citizens

Multiple noise complaints from Urbana residents have caused the city council to issue a self-enforcing policy on garbage haulers in the community.

If the city hears a complaint from a resident, the city staff notifies the owner or general manager of the garbage-hauling firm, said Rod Fletcher, Urbana environmental manager. The haulers have two weeks after the notification to adjust their schedules to alleviate the issue.

The problem is that haulers come early in the morning, said Phyllis Clark, Urbana city clerk. The noise from the trucks, such as the dinging sound of the trucks in reverse and the loud hydraulic sound from picking up the garbage, cause residents to wake up. She said the city discussed a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. time frame for the haulers to pick up the garbage, but no time frame has been implemented yet.

“People are disturbed at three, four, five in the morning during weekly garbage hauling,” said Bill Gray, Urbana Public Works director. “We are going to give (the self-enforcement policy) a go and see how it works.”

Gray mentioned two ways garbage haulers can handle the noise issue from residents. If a hauler causes too much disturbance and receives a complaint, the company can pick up the garbage at a later time. The garbage haulers can also speak with the property owner to come to a reasonable solution, he said.

Elizabeth Nicol, Urbana resident, said she lives next door to a garbage bin at Landmark Apartments, 502 W. Main St. She said she is still woken up by the garbage haulers at 3 a.m., despite having tried to negotiate a schedule change.

“It happens during the middle of the night. There are some times where it’s night after night,” Nicol said.

However, Urbana’s noise ordinance specifically exempts garbage haulers. Nicol said she appreciates the council’s attempt to alleviate the noise, but disagrees with the exemption.

“I still think that having this inconsistency still kind of wrangles me, but I sympathize with what (city council members) were trying to do,” she said. “I think that the ideal solution would not be an exemption for garbage haulers.”

Marty Grant, general manager for Allied Waste Services, which serves Landmark Apartments, said the company is doing its best to work with apartment owners who have problems. He said he has addressed two complaints since the city implemented the self-enforcement policy, but does not remember any from Landmark.

“We don’t want to disturb the residents,” Grant said. “We’re trying to work through on a case-by-case basis. You’re constantly trying to move your routes around to make someone happy, but you are potentially making others unhappy.”

Cindy Eaglen, owner of Illini Recycling, said action needs to be taken for the benefit of residents.

“If we’re waking people up, then we need to do something about it,” she said.

However, Eaglen mentioned that the time frame from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. would make things difficult for the hauler. Illini Recycling drops off its garbage at a landfill in Decatur, Ill., a destination that takes garbage trucks from the Champaign area an hour and a half to reach. The latest a truck can unload at Decatur is 2:30 p.m., meaning trucks must leave town by 1 p.m. Operating on this time-frame would allow the haulers a seven hour workday ­— from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“That is where the difficulty lies,” Eaglen said. “No one wants racing garbage trucks. They’re slow-moving vehicles. There’s no way to speed up the operation.”

She added she thinks the self-enforcing policy for garbage haulers is a good solution.

Fletcher agreed the policy has been successful. He said city staff has received one complaint so far.

“It’s a combination of private and public working together,” Eaglen said. “I think it was the best possible solution. If it doesn’t work, you go back and figure something out. The council looked at the whole situation and was willing to work together to resolve the issue.”