Commissioners Corner: A Day With Our City Sanitation Team



Josh Blanton

Ashland City Commissioner

   It’s no secret that we have a fantastic Sanitation team (also known as Garbage pick up) in Ashland. I routinely hear storied about a good deed or kind gesture one of our team members made toward a citizen. We sing their praises a lot, but I thought it was important to understand exactly what they do on a daily basis. So, I worked a shift with them. I knew it was not an easy job but I also learned some things I did not know and I am very glad and thankful for the experience. Here’s how it went:

   6:30 a.m. – Employees arrive at the garage on 41st street to have a shift briefing before they started their day on their respective routes. I knew a few but everyone was extremely welcoming, which I appreciated. 

   6:35 a.m. – Supervisor John Jenkins gave me a safety orientation and went over several points I needed to know in order to be safe on the job. Many of these procedures have been implemented due to experience. Dangerous items in trash, distracted drivers, and aggressive animals are just a few of the hazards that can happen on a daily basis. Working in a manufacturing plant, I am familiar with safety trainings and John did an excellent job of making sure I was prepared to do the job and be safe, as well.

   7:15 – 11 a.m. - I was assigned to a truck with employees John Rucker and Jason Melvin. Although I had made them late on their route, they were extremely accommodating and immediately gave me pointers about how to be efficient and what to look out for. We started in the south Ashland area and I learned how to hook the can on to a piece of equipment that dumped the can into the truck, by pulling a lever on the side. I also learned that it was a good idea to stand back while this was happening, as you never know what might come out. 

   The garbage truck is a beast. It has a large gate inside that will reach back and pull the garbage into the truck, compacting it to make room for more. It is very powerful, I watched it crush a couch and several appliances with ease. When the truck is completely full (which takes more than a day), it is taken to the landfill to dump. I began to get the hang of it around mid-day but was also surprised at how physically intense it was. When I got home later that day, I was absolutely beat. We walked over seven miles during the day, but we were grabbing and throwing bags and cans constantly. 

   11 a.m. – 2 p.m. - We made our way down a portion of Blackburn Ave. before taking a quick break. After break, we headed out to Boy Scout Road and worked there for the remainder of the day. Most citizens place their cans properly and make it fairly easy to pick up. However, there were several places where we encountered 15-20 bags, many with liquid, and items that were very difficult to handle. While I was not happy to see that our employees had to deal with this every week, John and Jason never complained. They just did their jobs while smiling and waving and expected me to do the same.

   Once we were finished with the route, we returned to the garage, where everyone was making their way back in. We all talked and I confirmed that I saw just about everything they told me I would. They told me a few stories about things they have seen over the years and had a few laughs. My two main takeaways from the day include the following:

   1. We absolutely have the best group of sanitation employees in the world. They care about the city and the citizens, and do their jobs every day, no matter what.

   2. We, the citizens, need to pay more attention to our garbage and follow guidelines. Always use a trash bag, do not put liquids in the trash, make your garbage can easily accessible (if you need assistance with this, feel free to call sanitation and they will help), if you have an excessive amount of garbage, please call in advance. It really is just like the Golden Rule, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to handle yourself.  

   Watching our team interact with the citizens throughout the day and see the warm reception they get from so many was really special. It was an absolute honor to work with them and I’d like to thank our city staff for the opportunity.