Forget refuse and go after streets
by M. Stewart
Today's Review carries a story about East Liverpool Service-Safety Director Ryan Estelle enforcing a no-gifts rule for refuse and other city employees. While this might seem like the tactics of a bad middle school teacher who has lost control of his class, what's really sad is that Estelle had to get involved in the first place. The department supervisor should have handled this.
Of course I don't know the whole story, but Estelle's involvement seems to have become necessary only after streets and refuse department supervisor Ray Talbott's failed to manage the situation. With evidence of men drinking on the job, Estelle had little choice but to step in. The only thing I can't figure out is why Talbott isn't the subject of discussion.
I have no problem with the refuse department workers. In fact, I think they do a good job. My trash is picked up on time every week. What more can I ask of them? No, this is a leadership issue, and one has to wonder if there is anyone running that department. Under Talbott's supervision, the street department has become a joke. Our city streets are among the worst in the developed world, yet virtually nothing is done to maintain them.
Here's what an East Liverpool native who returned to town for the all-class reunion had to say about our streets:
While back [for] the All Class Reunion a few months ago, it was great to see my family and old friends. ... I was in shock to see the bad condition of the streets. The downtown looked like a gigantic parking lot, the old West End that seemed like a city itself in the 50s was almost gone and looked like a ghost town. (Division Street had ruts that were three feet deep on both sides!) Lou Holtz freeway [was] full of weeds like trees growing out of the steel of the guard rails! If I was Lou, I would have to tell [them] to take my name off that sign.
You can read the rest of the comment by "namdogtag" under my Oct. 6 post, A poverty industry testimonial.
This is from a sympathetic visitor. Those of us who live here are even better informed as to the condition of our streets. And where is the street department? Where is the street supervisor? On the surface, finding beer in the refrigerator at the Car Barn is a relatively minor problem, but the incident is a symbol of poor or non-existent management. How long are the citizens of East Liverpool going to put up with this?
During a recent city council discussion of the refuse department, Councilman Ray Perorazio insisted that the city should "get out of the garbage business." At least in the newspaper account, he offered no substantial reason for it. In fact, he was quoted as saying that the refuse workers "do a very good job."
So why is council talking about refuse at all? By council's own admission, the department works very well. The question is, why aren't they talking about eliminating the street department? Where was Supervisor Talbott? For all the good street workers do in this town, we could easily replace the department with outside contractors. Even a gang of high school kids on summer vacation would do a better job than we're getting now.
The fact of the matter is that citizens elect mayors and council members to oversee the management and operation of the city. Where are our elected officials when it comes to the street department? Why aren't they working overtime to figure out how to solve this serious problem? Forget the refuse department guys. Slap them on the wrists if you have to, but the real problem is with streets. Fix the broken wheel, not the good one.