Haste makes waste

CITY AFFAIRS: The city’s $3.6 million plan to revamp its garbage trucks is forward-thinking, but more research must be done.

Who knew trash could be so costly?

In order to make up for a $1.2 million refuse fund deficit, the Berkeley City Council is considering a plan to revamp the city’s current -— and apparently dumpy — garbage trucks for more advanced, eco-friendly ones. The price tag? $3.6 million.

Officials say the plan will save money in the long-run because the trucks only require one person to operate them as opposed to two. During a testing period, the city will still have two people working, but position eliminations are planned for the 2013 fiscal year.

However, though the city may be willing to drop millions of dollars on this project, only one person has been testing the trucks so far — a worker who, as a member of a union, potentially presents a conflict of interest because garbage worker positions are slated to be cut. He says that the trucks’ trash-grabbing arms encounter issues within the city’s narrow streets. According to this truck tester, “Once you start sticking that arm between cars, you’ll have problems with vehicles being damaged or people actually being hit with the arm.”

Though overhauling the city’s garbage truck system may not seem like a very original notion, we are glad to see the city considering a more creative and long-term strategy than in the past. Filling shortfalls in the city’s refuse fund has been an enduring problem in recent years and previous proposed plans have simply upped the trash collection fee.

Nevertheless, if officials are contemplating such an expensive move, we hope that they will place more emphasis on researching these trucks. More than one person should be testing them for their functionality and, if it hasn’t done so already, the city should be looking to other communities to observe whether these trucks have worked in places with similarly narrow streets.

The city should certainly consider innovative, forward-thinking reforms to advance the community and save money. Still, without proper exploration of the proposal, this plan may be a waste.