Parks to stay without trash bins for now
Michael Whitney photo
The city has posted large signs to “leave no trace” and take home trash at Pilchuck Park and Hill Park.
SNOHOMISH — The city removed trash cans from its most popular parks around mid-July because of too much demand and having too few employees to keep things tidy, according to Mayor John Kartak.
Big signs entering Pilchuck Park and Hill Park now tell people to take home their trash: “pack it in and pack it out.”
The bathrooms are locked at Hill Park, Pil-chuck Park and Ferguson Park; an effect of the staff shortage. Portable restrooms are stationed at each. Vandalism constantly happen-ing to these bathrooms hasn’t helped either.
Usually, the city has a small squad of seasonal employees to clean up parks and other city jobs. This year, they’ve attracted just one seasonal laborer and it’s already almost August (a second person is going through the hiring process).
The city has two full-time parks employees and one half-timer.
The trash cans won’t be coming back for the time being, Kartak said. Removing them “was a recommendation made by staff” which the city will try out, he said.
The city faced a competitive job market while finding seasonal workers, said city human resources manager and clerk Rebekah Park.
The city just last week increased the pay rate for seasonal workers to $20 an hour. It was $15.50 an hour starting pay before that.
Finding outdoor seasonal laborers for $15.50 an hour was difficult when competing with places such as Fred Meyer or Home Depot have indoor jobs at similar wages, Park said.
The city advertised the seasonal labor position on job websites Indeed and LinkedIn and on its city webpage, Park said.
Ferguson Park and Morgantown Park both kept their trash cans, a reporter’s spot check saw the cans at both and they looked clean.
Snohomish city parks being regionally popular is partly to blame.
For a while, instead of trash cans, Pilchuck Park had a dumpster for trash. During the heat wave weekend in late June, one place people flocked to was Pilchuck Park next to the river. City workers found the park dumpster overfilled after, with trash heaping over top of it and around it, Kartak described. They had to clear the overflow trash and clean up around the dumpster, and these items filled another dumpster, he said.
Kartak said that, regionally, other parks systems are facing the same problem.
The mayor wants to also focus on cleaning trash along First Street, which has overflowing trash cans. The city might use federal money through the American Rescue Plan to either find a contractor or add a staff member to keep First Street trash bins under control. The City Council last week discussed how to spend these federal dollars and directed to hire a contractor.
The county’s parks system introduced a “pack it in / pack it out” model at some parks a few years ago, county parks spokeswoman Rose Intveld said. Trash cans were taken away, but more dumpsters were added to the Snohomish County Parks system.
One of the reasons is to reduce costs. Instead of parks staff removing bags from trash bins to take to the dumpster, “park users can put their trash directly into a dumpster or pack it out. “
The county launched its “Pack it in / Pack it out” campaign in 2014, Intveld said.
The city is paying to have portable restrooms stationed at Ferguson, Hill and Pilchuck parks. Each park has three Port-A-Potties. A reporter’s spot check showed most of these portable bathrooms were generally clean, and written records show that these Port-A-Potties are cleaned weekly.
At Pilchuck Park, two of the three Port-A-Potties had trash strewn inside during a look-around. The Port-A-Potty company arrived to service during the spot check.
Vandals have continuously damaged Snohomish’s park bathrooms. It’s why the city is looking to eventually add security cameras to monitor outside park bathrooms.
A reporter’s inquiries to understand the needed repairs at the Ferguson Park, Hill Park and Pilchuck Park’s bathrooms were not returned by deadline.
All three were hit by vandalism last fall. Ferguson Park’s bathroom, for example, was destroyed by a fire.
The city’s insurer pays for some of the damage, but fixing vandalism still steals money meant for park maintenance. The city’s parks budget is $1.8 million, of which $1.2 million is meant to go toward park maintenance and upkeep needed throughout the year.
Want a job?
The city is actively hiring for seasonal workers. Contact city human resources manager Rebekah Park at 360-282-3155 to apply. Seasonal positions are full time jobs, and the city will pay for you to get a traffic flagging certificate, Park said.
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