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Newport Beach trash change causing a stir

September 20, 2013 5:14:05 PM PDT
Art Mitchell loves his job as a garbage collector, but he's in danger of losing his job.

"I actually do a job where people appreciate what I do, and in a big way, and that's very rare," Mitchell said.

Newport Beach officials want to switch from a manual trash collection to an automated system a third of the city is already using.

Resident Peggy Wachtel says she likes that the trash collectors take things that might not always be taken -- like clunky mattresses.

"They're courteous, they're nice. Most people at Christmas time give them a bottle of wine," said David Ryan of Newport Beach.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff defended the change, saying the automated method is faster.

"You can do 1,000 homes in a day instead of 400 homes in a day, and through that, you can save money," he said.

The savings is an estimated $17 million over seven years, according to the city. But some residents say that's hard to believe.

"I'm not really seeing where the savings is because it's going to cost us more in our streets," said Brandice Smith of Newport Beach.

The city will have to buy new bins and recycle the old ones, as well as scrap the blue trash trucks for new ones with a mechanical arm.

"To me, it's not a stretch to save some arms, save some hips, let the city save some money, and still have the same or better quality service," Kiff said.

The one big issue all the residents say they're losing is that personal feel and touch. They all know Mitchell. He's been doing this for 12 years.

"We give full service. We give that personal touch. The people trust us," Mitchell said.

Kiff said all 16 trash collectors will be reassigned within the city, keep their benefits and their $65,000 salaries.

"I think it's going to be better, and I think a year from now, two years from now, everybody will say, 'What was the big fuss about?'" he said.


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