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Streets packed with snow and ice delay city trash and recycling services

Durango residents missing mail wonder what’s up with the post office
City crews remove snow on Jan. 12 from Arroyo Drive in west Durango. Recent snows have delayed the city of Durango’s trash and recycling services, but crews are working to bring garbage collections up to speed, said Joey Medina, the city’s solid waste manager and interim streets manager. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Recent snowstorms have caused headaches for some residents relying on city snow removal and trash and recycling services, but Durango’s public works department says it is trying to keep up with demand despite a lack of snowplow drivers.

Other neighbors report shoddy mail service ever since last week’s storms.

Nancy Fisher, a resident of the SkyRidge subdivision, said since the city was barraged by the first big snow a couple weeks ago, her street was “a mess” because snow hadn’t been cleared and trash and recycling cans hadn’t been emptied.

She and her neighbors just didn’t know when services would resume and were worried that their garbage would start to rot. People were bringing their garbage back and forth from the curb, unsure if they should leave the receptacles out in case collectors came, she said.

“But with the piles of snow along the edges of the street and the trash cans and the occasional cars parked on the side, the roads became very narrow,” she said.

Fisher finally called the city on Monday to ask about trash and recycling services. The next day, the city streets division cleared the streets.

“I think everything as far as our trash pickup and recycling is going to be fine from here on out,” she said. “They just hadn’t been able to get up here.”

Joey Medina, solid waste manager and interim streets manager for the city, said city crews have had difficulty servicing certain areas around town because of the snow, and the SkyRidge subdivision was among them.

A news release published by the city on Wednesday says Jenkins Ranch within the SkyRidge subdivision normally receives trash collection services on Mondays, but because of complications from the snowy weather, the city’s trash and recycling division was unable to stick to its regular schedule. Collection services were rescheduled for the area between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday.

“That one in particular, we were not able to service the whole subdivision on Monday just due to roads being very narrow and a lot of the ice pack on some of the upper areas on that subdivision,” Medina said.

The street division used a grader to pull out packed ice and push snow berms against curb lines so garbage and residential trucks can navigate the streets, he said.

“My main goal was to make sure we could get out there and get some of that area opened up,” he said. “... The area looks pretty decent now to where we can get a truck through there and get the trash and (recycling) out there serviced.”

Medina said street and trash crews are trying to service all residents as soon as possible.

“We’re doing the best we can,” he said. “We’ve had a pretty big snow event over the last couple of weeks.”

He said the city uses snow chains on its garbage trucks, which is key for operating garbage trucks in icy conditions, but accessing roads is much easier after roads have been plowed and widened by the streets division.

“A lot of the problems we have is the ice pack. As you know, when anything’s on ice pack it’s kind of tough because it’ll slide further whether it has chains on it or not,” he said. “And so those are kind of the battles that we have, it’s basically ice and snow pack.”

Durango Public Works has been on the hunt for more commercial drivers to operate snowplows in the winter and other vehicles during other seasons, Allison Baker, public works director, told The Durango Herald in a previous interview. As of November, the department staffed seven CDL drivers and was hoping to hire five more.

Medina said on Thursday the streets division is in the process of hiring more street operators to “broaden our snowplow operations and get that back to fully staffed.”

He said the city asks for residents’ patience with the streets and trash and recycling divisions while crews do “everything we can” to plow streets, push snow back and provide collection services to customers.

Residents wonder why mail isn’t being delivered
People wait in line at the Durango post office on Thursday, some wondering why their mail hadn’t been delivered the week of Jan. 23. A post office clerk said mail workers were delivering mail that afternoon and referred The Durango Herald’s questions to the post master, who was going through training and not immediately available for comment. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Backlogged plowing, trash and recycling services aren’t the only delays that have left residents scratching their heads. Two Durango residents, Mark Wherry and William Karls, said they hadn't received mail in four to six days.

On istheservicedown.com, a website that tracks and displays real-time service statuses and outages, showed that users were reporting “delivery, tracking and website down” for the U.S. Postal Service’s Durango office. Seventy-five percent of user-reported problems were related to delivery issues.

Wherry, who lives just off 32nd Street on East Fourth Avenue, said he and his neighbors haven’t received mail in at least four days, although he did receive a large cardboard package on two occasions and his outgoing mail is at least being collected. He said road access to his residence is also in good shape.

He visited the Durango post office about 3 p.m. Wednesday and found a line stretching from the counter to the door. He heard other people in line saying they hadn’t received their mail. He stood in line for about 10 minutes before giving up and heading home because the line hadn’t budged.

He tried to call the local post office as well as listed a 1-800 number, which he said was a big waste of time because he was never able to speak with a person.

Karls said in an email to the Herald, “My understanding is there are many areas that have not had mail delivery for 4-6 days. We live in Animas City and have had no mail delivery this week.”

The Herald asked post office staff members if they were aware of delivery problems. A clerk directed the newspaper’s questions to the post office’s post master, who she said was going through training and not immediately available.


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