The neighbors of a Germantown block want to know: What's it take to get your garbage picked up around here? Because trash trucks have missed their street at least six times in the last three months - and several phone calls to 3-1-1 didn't put them on the trash-pickup map.
Admittedly, the 5300 block of Wingohocking Heights is easy to miss. There are just four homes on the street, and they sit up a steep hill shrouded by trees - sanitation trucks need to turn around and back up the hill to pick up the trash. Standing at the foot of the hill, a neighborhood kid told Help Desk he didn't even know what's up there.
But trash pickup was never a problem until the last few months, said Alan Chestnut, who has lived on the block for more than 25 years. And neighbor Kristen Hyman said the recycling truck makes its run just fine every week.
Chestnut and Hyman have called 3-1-1 numerous times to report the missed Thursday pickups. A truck eventually comes out, they say, but only after their trash has sat out for a whole weekend.
By that time, the critters - squirrels, raccoons, possums - have gotten to it. Chestnut's wife, Regina McIntosh-Chestnut, said she always has to re-bag the garbage that has, quite literally, fallen through the cracks.
What's a block to do?
Here's one solution: Buy some coyote urine online.
That's what Chestnut did. He read that a few drops keep the little critters away.
"It works to a certain degree," said his wife, laughing and shaking her head.
But coyote urine doesn't strike Help Desk as a reasonable long-term solution. One missed trash pickup? It happens. Several missed pickups, after reports to 3-1-1? That's a bad job.
UN-SANITIZED: We called Deputy Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams, who oversees sanitation for the city.
Williams said the department only became aware of a problem on this block in the last week (even though neighbors say they've been dealing with this issue for nearly three months), but that it seemed like the area's crew chief had not being doing his job correctly.
Crew chiefs, Williams said, are responsible for checking routes to make sure trash has been collected. If one block is missed, the chief should address the problem. Williams apologized for the lack of service, saying there was no excuse for this repeated mistake. "We expect our guys to do a better job than that," he said.
Williams said the Streets Department has been doing a pretty good job of collecting everyone's trash, missing less than 0.2 percent of pickups.
If you do get missed, the city said to call 3-1-1, and a special truck will come back within two business days - though this doesn't always happen. According to data supplied by 3-1-1, a little less than half of the 6,500 complaints of missed trash pickup reported via 3-1-1 last year were picked up in two days. Still, call for the special truck.
If your block or your house gets missed routinely, Williams asked that you call the Streets Department directly at 215-686-5470.
It could be that you're putting out too much trash or there's construction in the way of the garbage truck, Williams said. Or it could simply be, like this Germantown block, a mistake that no one bothered to fix.
Williams said he had spoken to both the district manager and the crew chief to make sure they don't forget this block again. We'll hold him to that. We've asked Hyman and Chestnut to keep us updated on their trash problem. If there's any more need for coyote urine, you can bet we'll be writing about it again.
Is your trash pickup reliable and on time? Other city services? Tell us about it at email@example.com, @phillyhowl, or at 215-854-5855.