By Stephen Quigley
There was a lot of trash talk at the North End Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) on Monday night. Many residents at the meeting had suggestions and observations to help clean up the problem in the neighborhood, with reassurances from city officials that “the North End is on the city’s radar.”
Dennis Roache, the Assistant Superintendent of Boston Public Works, and Eric Prentis, Principal Administrative Assistant for the Office of the Streets, Transportation, and Sanitation for the City of Boston, listened to a host of concerns and possible solutions, while telling residents about the ongoing programs that the city is undertaking to fix the problem.
Roache told the residents that city officials are studying how other communities around Boston are coping with their rubbish problem.
He noted that the composting pilot program that was started in August has signed up 10,000 households throughout the city and come July 1, another 10,000 households will be able to take part.
He also mentioned the textile recycling program is underway and that the state-mandated mattress recycling program will start soon.
However, there are three large problems with the current trash collection program that takes place on Mondays and Thursdays. The first problem is that trash in bags must be put out on the streets on the day of collection by 6 a.m. This means that many residents put out their trash bags the night before and then either rats or trash pickers break open the bags.
“The trash collection time is too early in the morning,” was a common complaint from the residents. However, Roache noted that the current contract from Capitol Waste will not expire until June 30, 2024, and there is no way to alter the contract to change the hours.
The other problem is that once the trash bags are cut, the rubbish often spills out onto the streets and sidewalks. Some residents noted that often, the debris is left on the streets and sidewalks.
But the biggest problem is the overwhelmed city workforce that is responsible for enforcing the city’s ordinances. Roache noted that there are city departments that lack staff. Presently, the number of employees at the Department of Public Works who monitor the rubbish problem is down 40 percent.
“In 2015 there were 30 workers monitoring the trash problems in the North End, but today we are down to about 15 inspectors,” Prentis said.
In the meantime, Roache urged residents to report problems to 311 and take pictures if they are able. Other suggestions that residents offered were to raise the fine for violators of the trash ordinances from $25 to a higher amount. Another suggestion was to have the state do away with the bottle bill that would substantially reduce the trash bags being cut.
One resident offered that community dumpsters might be the answer saying, “What do we have to lose?”
Roache mentioned that in New York City, containers with rubbish can be put out the night before and the trash bags are still put out in the morning.
Roache stressed that the public should take the easy steps of trying to limit the rat population by reading the city’s pamphlets and cutting down on outside sources of sustenance for rodent populations.
“Rats drink more water than they eat,” Prentis noted.
In other business, the council unanimously approved the occupancy change at 38B Fleet Street. The building currently has five residential units and one detached retail space. The owners are not seeking to change the residential units, but to change the use of the detached storefront to a small restaurant that will feature “good Italian specialty sandwiches to grab and go,” according to the owners. The store has a total area of 286 square feet.
The next meeting of the NEWNC is scheduled for Monday, December 12, at 7 p.m.