WINSTON COUNTY - Residents who receive garbage collection services from the Winston County Sanitation Department are being warned they could see delays in their garbage pickup.
Winston County Commission Chairman Roger Hayes made a special declaration at the commission’s Monday, Jan. 31, meeting that at least 15 sanitation employees were out of work due to COVID-19.
The number of sanitation employees showing up for work has dropped from around 15 to only four one day recently to cover the entirety of Winston County.
“Last Monday, we had four people show up at the sanitation department,” Hayes announced at the commission meeting.
“With the virus, the problem getting parts, the problem of getting things fixed and keeping people working, we’re not going to pick up garbage one day,” Hayes stated. “We don’t know what that day is.
“I want to put the people on caution in Winston County,” Hayes pointed out. “Be patient with us, and be patient with the guys. This virus has gone through our sanitation department once, and it has started back through.
“It puts a heavy burden on our laborers, getting the garbage up,” said Hayes. “What people don’t realize is we pick up over 400 stops a day, sometimes 500 stops.
“When it does happen, I want people to be patient with us,” stressed Hayes, “because the virus and the problems we’ve had getting parts to fix some of our vehicles have been awful.
“It causes a delay because you can’t get the vehicles out because they will not work or you have employees that can’t go because they are sick with the virus,” Hayes pointed out.
Commissioner David Cummings noted that slingers (the ones riding on the trucks picking up the garbage) and the drivers often ride in the cab of the truck together.
“There’s really no way to stay your distance when three of you are having to ride in the cab of the truck or two of you have to ride in the cab of a truck,” said Cummings. “It spreads and everybody gets it. That is what has hurt us.
“A mask helps, but a mask doesn’t prevent,” he added. “We’ve been hit hard by it, and we’re taking all the precautions we can.”
Cummings thanked all the sanitation workers for the jobs they do, especially under such difficult circumstances.
“It’s been limited resources when you have 65 percent of your employees (out) because they have been exposed or they have COVID,” Cummings stressed. “That is putting a real burden on the ones who are here, having to do two garbage routes instead of one.”
Garbage also may not be picked up exactly on schedule, with customers with morning pickups having to wait until the afternoon or the following day for their pickup service, Cummings explained.
“Just work with us,” he said. “If the garbage sits there a couple of days and nobody picks it up, call in. If somebody doesn’t get your garbage today, maybe they will tomorrow.
“We’re having a tough time keeping the routes going when 65 percent of your workforce is out,” Cummings stressed.
Commissioner Bobby Everett said the county has faced shortages throughout the COVID pandemic of receiving parts for equipment, as well as having enough employees to have regular sanitation services.
“Just bear with us,” Everett stated. “Maybe this pandemic will lift and we’ll be healed from that, then the parts, the products and the workforce will come back for us to achieve that quantity of pickup that is required.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.