COUNTY ENJOYS MASSIVE PUBLIC RESPONSE TO TRASH INITIATIVE

COUNTY ENJOYS MASSIVE PUBLIC RESPONSE TO TRASH INITIATIVE

The phones are ringing in the offices of Doña Ana County government! In response to a mass mailing informing property owners of a new solid-waste ordinance, hundreds of people have called in to express support for the program, seek clarification of its objectives and procedures, and, in a few cases, voice complaints.
In order to minimize busy signals, all incoming calls to (505) 647-7277 are being routed first through the Community Development office, then to the Public Information Office and then to the county’s Environmental Department. In all, about 10 people have been answering incoming solid-waste calls non-stop during business hours in the affected offices.
Informal records from Community Development and Public Information document more than 1,000 calls through 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29, in addition to more than 200 walk-ins and nearly 200 messages left after hours that are being returned by trained personnel who can answer questions related to the new ordinance. The volume of calls Wednesday has not been significantly less than that recorded Monday and Tuesday.
“The vast majority of the calls we’re handling are from residents who understand the need for the ordinance and simply want clarification of their responsibilities,” said Wayne Grinnell, acting director of Community Development. “We answer their questions and explain their options. We’ve had a small percentage of calls – maybe 2 percent – from people who are angry about the new ordinance.”
Grinnell said that even some of the angry callers relent once the ordinance’s goals are explained related to increased prosecution of illegal dumping and the need to save the county from subsidizing solid waste to the tune of about $1 million each year under the old system.
“A lot of people didn’t understand that the county was hemorrhaging money under the old system,” Grinnell said. “Once they realize that the new revenue stream will free up money for better law enforcement, road improvements and codes crack-downs, a lot of the initially angry callers calm right down and become supportive.”
Grinnell said he expects that a radio/tv ad blitz set to begin Sept. 5 will further educate the public about the program, but he said he will have people manning the informational phone line for as long as there’s a need.
“We anticipated a response, and we’re dealing with it,” Grinnell said. “People are generally resistant to change unless it can be justified. This program is a winner for every resident of the county, and we’re committed to helping them understand the reasons why, as well as their individual roles in making it work.”