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Pocahontas proposes shifting trash pickup to automated system

Leaders say the city has struggled to keep people in the sanitation department
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:34 PM CDT
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POCAHONTAS, Ark. (KAIT) - At the recent Pocahontas City Council meeting, a proposal to move the city to an automated trash pickup system was brought up.

This as the city hired three different people, just to have them quit the sanitation department all within the last month.

“We’re having trouble with keeping our staff on the truck,” Mayor Keith Sutton said.

It is a struggle that the head of the Sanitation and Street Department, Ben Wicker, knows all too well.

He’s seen people come and go over the past 12 years he’s worked for the department.

“It’s a very undesirable job and it’s a very unappreciated job,” Wicker said.

But, it is a needed job, and the city of Pocahontas recognizes that. The city tried raising the starting pay to keep workers around, but they say they still haven’t been able to attract people to the job.

“Just imagine climbing on and off of that truck 700-800 times a day and dumping anywhere from 800 to a thousand cans,” Wicker said.

With a growing population, the 13-man department is working from sun up till the mid-afternoon, 5 days a week picking up trash, a workload that has nearly doubled over the past year.

But, that could change soon. The city proposed moving to an automated trash pickup system that could relieve some of the heavy workloads.

“It’s going to take care of the trash on the side of the roads, dogs getting in the bags people leave out,” Sutton said. “It’ll drastically clean up the town.”

Both Wicker and Sutton said the new system would make the pickup process quicker. While it would cost the city more in the short term, Sutton says cities like Jonesboro and Walnut Ridge have saved millions of dollars switching to this system.

“I think this is a win-win for the city and a win-win for the street department,” Sutton said. “We can downsize, or move the people that’s on the truck over to the street department where we can do more projects and complete more projects faster. It’ll eliminate trash on the roads because we’re going to supply the cans.”

Pocahontas is gathering more information about the switch, including the cost, but they plan on deciding at the next city council meeting in August.

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