Dawson’s garbage goes sour

For years, some Dawson City residents have put out their garbage with ease. Now, it’s a chore. Some residents have to walk it down icy, steep slopes.

For years, some Dawson City residents have put out their garbage with ease.

Now, it’s a chore. Some residents have to walk it down icy, steep slopes in minus 30 Celsius weather, or worse, all because there’s a new driver in town.

With the exception of a few, brief changes in hands, the Blattler family has held the garbage pick-up contract in the small town for 30 years. However, they recently hired a driver who is refusing to drive up back alleys and then back down them again into intersections, citing safety concerns.

“Nothing has changed within 30 years,” says Helmut Schoener, who has lived and worked in Dawson for 31 years. “The geography’s the same, the truck is the same. Normally I wouldn’t have anything to do with this because it’s so trivial, but this is such an idiotic situation and, again, it all hinges on, I think, one incompetent driver.”

Schoener is one of the residents who now has to walk his garbage from his home, located further up a back alley, to Eighth Avenue.

In the past, the truck has driven up the alley, just as fuel trucks and ambulances do, says Schoener.

Worried for his own safety and convenience, Schoener has offered to take care of his garbage collection himself, so long as his taxes are adjusted appropriately.

“Quite frankly to me, it’s unreasonable to slide down the trail with my garbage,” he says. “Why do I pay (the town) taxes for my garbage collection? It means more trouble for me.”

City Coun. Wayne Potoroka also has to walk his trash quite a distance.

“I completely empathize with the people who now have to walk their waste a block or so,” he said. “But, on the other hand, I’m respectful of the operator’s right to be safe.”

This right is enforced within city bylaw and worker’s rights, says Potoroka.

Bylaw No. 80, Dawson’s garbage bylaw – passed in March of 1971 – states the trash collector must have convenient access to the bins. It also says the collector can specify where they want the receptacles placed.

In conjunction with workers’ safety rights, city council has interpreted this bylaw to mean that so long as the collector lays out an alternative, they have the right to change how they do their job, Schoener says.

The alternative has been using garbage bin boxes that have been built abutting the larger streets these back alleys intersect.

“I truly cannot see a danger involved in driving up the back alley of Eighth Avenue and I truly cannot see the danger for a truck driver who has a certain amount of training for backing up,” said Schoener. “This would be like Air North saying, ‘Well, we only fly when it’s blue skies.’ In my opinion, it’s pushed to a point where it becomes ridiculous.”

The city hopes to find a compromise early in the new year, says Potoroka.

The Blattler family could not be reached for comment.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com

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