We Have a Plan

trash 0719
You have to squint much harder than I intended to see two more trash cans toppled in the background. There had to have been seven cans on their side as I came down the alley.

Today is July 11, which is good news for you if you are near a 7-11 store. Free Slurpee! If you go from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Get it?) I’ve never had a Slurpee, so I don’t know what I’ll be missing out on, but around here it’s just Trash Day.

Our trash service is provided by the City of Gunnison, which recently came up with a new Plan for trash.

The city seems to have many plans these days, not all of them finding favor with constituents. And I get that you can’t make a decision about anything without someone somewhere contesting it, but our city these days almost seems to be seeking out controversy.

You may recall the ambitious Palisades Plan, where they were going to rip up all the streets and some large chunk of the trees in our subdivision. That got put on hold because the city either got no bids or no palatable bids. They plan to put it out to bid again this fall for a summer 2020 start date.

The other day I looked at the house across the street from the Barils, which when I was growing up belonged to an older woman who surrounded herself with trash. Whoever lives there now has spent hours and hours and hours putting together an absolutely lovely, tree-heavy landscape inside a split-rail fence — and all of it in the city’s right-of-way where the city plans to take out all the trees.

I don’t think the city has any idea what sort of buzzsaw it’s likely to walk into with this plan. I doubt very much that too many people will object to the streets being replaced, but once you start messing with people’s lawns and trees . . .

Although the city may gain some inkling with another Plan that probably sounded fairly benign. They want to provide a Safe to School route by putting a sidewalk along a couple of streets where no sidewalk exists. (Remove the sidewalk from the Palisades; put it on Spruce and Arthur Streets. That seems fair.)

But the city doesn’t want to put this sidewalk right alongside the street for snowplowing purposes, and so by the time you put in what, a five-or six-foot wide sidewalk and back it three feet off the curb, you have taken a considerable chunk out of people’s lawns. And their trees. Jan Scheefer, who planted a slew (that’s a technical term) of trees 20 years ago that the city now wants to remove, is suggesting the city use a median in the middle of Boulevard (yes, the street is a “Street”; the name of the street is “Boulevard”: Boulevard Street) to place the sidewalk, which actually is not a terrible idea. The medians are green space that is barely used, and a sidewalk would disrupt far less than the Plan for Spruce.

But the city doesn’t see it Jan’s way, and once again, in a Tree City USA, our city fathers (yes, mostly men) see no problem with taking out 27 trees since there are 100 total. I guess a casualty rate of 25% is more acceptable to some people than others.

The city’s biggest Plan that is drawing ire may also disrupt a couple of trees, but that’s not what anyone’s focused on with that. A couple has proposed building a four-story hotel — in a city that doesn’t have a single building over three stories (unless maybe Taylor Hall on campus counts as 3.5) in the 400 block of North Main, where no building is taller than two stories, and each building is a free-standing single-family residence, some of them converted to business/offices.

Several people, most of them optimistic city fathers, feel this hotel will single-handedly “revitalize” downtown Gunnison. Sitting here in my armchair (I used to write a column called “The Armchair Quarterback,” so I feel qualified for this), this whole thing just screams “boondoggle” to me. Live here long enough, and you see them over and over, but if you have your rosy “let’s revitalize Gunnison without spending any money” glasses on, perhaps this sounds great.

But if we were to stop and do math, I’m going to hazard a guess that a 17-room “boutique” hotel of four stories is going to be at least $4 million to construct. And if you look at the occupancy rates of all the existing hostelries, especially in the winter especially now that the ski area is owned by Vail, which got rid of an incentive package for their guests to stay in Gunnison rather than Crested Butte, the return on investment could be so far away that this ambitious, sincere couple digs a partial foundation, runs up a lot of bills with an assortment of local vendors, and then melts away in the night, leaving the city with a giant mess it has to spend money to clean up.

Not that I’ve ever seen that happen before.

Which is all fine and well, but what on Earth does any of this have to do with trash, which is the raison d’être of today’s column?

I just thought I’d walk you through some city Plans before we discuss the Trash Plan, which I see working just as well as all these other Plans.

When the city went to an automated trash system many years ago, they offered three sizes of trash cans at three different rates. Lynn and I opted for the smallest can, 38 gallons. But the city apparently has had several problems with these smaller cans, worst of which is they slip out of the automated forks, and the truck driver has to climb in among the trash to fish them out.

That should be reason enough to swap them out with larger cans, because safety should come first. And perhaps the extra revenue the city will get from charging people like us more will in fact make up the losses the city is sustaining in dumping fees.

But here is where The Plan falls apart: for some idiotic reason, the city is telling us all that this will help with wildlife control, because for some reason they think these little trash cans are the only ones the nighttime wildlife (and daytime dogs, I’ll bet) knock over. How misguided and obtuse can you be?

Our next-door neighbors, a family of eight, have a private-company Dumpster to supplement the largest can the city supplies. To the constant dismay of the neighbor across the alley from them, their trash is always — always! — all over the alley and her lawn, and their trash can spends as much time on its side as it does upright.

The other night, through my open window, I heard a loud thrashing sound. Even with a flashlight, I never could find the culprit, but whatever it was, it worked its way down the alley, and you could hear it rocking a trashcan back and forth. In the morning, the across-alley neighbor’s can was on its side, trash strewn everywhere.

And this morning, on Trash Day, I made the mistake of driving my truck down the alley (coming back from the mechanic, because the power drain continues), and it was like a slalom course, wending my way around all the trash cans, most of them large, that have been knocked over.

Even if the driver doesn’t have to go into the back of the truck to recover a can, he is going to be climbing out of the cab every other wheel turn to set all these cans upright. If only he could cap off a crappy day at work with a free Slurpee. (Isn’t it great that I can tie this all back together?)

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