After some stormy weather through April and May, the city of Waco is making an extra effort to pick up brush.
City of Waco Solid Waste Services has temporarily expanded operations to six days a week to catch up on a backlog of more than 650 work orders for bulky waste pickup, Public Works Director Chuck Dowdell said. Residents who need masses of tree limbs, leaves and debris cleared from their curbs have submitted the requests, and the size of the backlog is an outlier compared to recent years, Dowdell said.
“Waco really started looking at their brush situation about 10 or 15 years ago,” he said. “Back then, 1,600 calls could pile up. But looking at the trends since 2017, yeah, this is really high.”
The central and southeastern parts of Waco are seeing the most brush piles, along with other areas with larger numbers of tall, old trees. Last month, trucks cleared 70 tons of brush from District 2, a new record for the area that includes parts of downtown and South Waco.
“You can kind of see the trends,” Dowdell said. “April has been real high.”
Small amounts of brush can be placed in green yard-waste bins and picked up during normal routes. Residents should call 299-2612 to request a pickup of brush too bulky for the bins, and the city will send a truck equipped with a grapple to pick it up and haul it away. A pile smaller than 5-by-4-by-4-feet is included with regular trash fees. A larger pile may require payment of an extra fee for pickup.
Operations supervisor John Settlemyer said calls started pouring in after a series of storms in April.
“It just makes more stuff fall, and that’s when it really starts,” Settlemyer said. “Most people just want it to go away. Last year, we didn’t have the problem we had this year.”
The city has four grapple trucks, but two are being repaired. To catch up to the demand, grapple trucks are being paired up with trucks that have more hauling capacity, to cut down on the number of times trucks have to return to the Cobbs Recycling Center.
Settlemyer said Solid Waste Services aims for 20 to 25 pickups a day, but many factors can cause delays. In some cases, an unaccompanied grapple truck has to turn back when a caller underestimates the size of the brush pile, causing even more of a delay.
“If it’s a large pile, tell us it’s a large pile,” Settlemyer said. “What happens is, they say ‘it’s not that big.’ I’ll send a little truck out to pick it up, and it can’t handle it. So then it has to go back into the work order system, and it just delays.”
“We’re collecting from 44 thousand homes,” Dowdell said. “They all do the best they can to pick it up curbside throughout the week.”
He said people sometimes get aggravated when they see a grapple truck stop at one house in a block but pass by others with brush piles. Crews are following a set route as they knock out work orders, not going block by block.
“If we just stopped at every block, we’d never get to the people who’ve been waiting and waiting,” Dowdell said.