Trash parkouts in Great Falls and McLean, vestiges of a rural Fairfax County with houses too far apart for a garbage truck to drive efficiently from one to the next, apparently will survive another year of budget cuts.
The $2.46 billion FY 2003 budget that was approved Monday by the Board of Supervisors with one dissenting vote includes a $30 hike in the cost of a one-year parkout permit. It will rise by 15 percent, from $195 to $225, beginning on July 1.
Originally, county parkouts were free. Once a week, on Saturday morning, residents would bring their trash to a garbage truck, rather than a garbage truck going to residents to retrieve refuse and recyclables. Later, the county added residential routes.
After a downturn in the economy in 1992, Fairfax County began charging residents who deliver their own garbage to the last two parkouts, in McLean at Cooper Middle School and in Great Falls at the elementary school. Presently, 878 people hold parkout permits, more in Great Falls than in McLean.
Residents say the parkouts are more convenient, less destructive for private roads and narrow, substandard roads, and less expensive than commercial haulers.
But representatives from the county’s Department of Solid Waste and Recycling say the labor costs, including overtime pay for parkout workers, and the rising cost of diesel fuel for the trucks are pushing up the cost of maintaining even two parkouts.
“Historically, we have had a decrease in the number of users,” said Randy Hancock of the Department of Solid Waste when he appeared at a recent meeting of the Great Falls Citizens Association.
“We’re getting stuck into a position where fewer people buy their permits each year and drive the cost up,” he said.
RESIDENTS DEFEND the parkouts, saying their use has declined because Fairfax County does not promote the service.
“The parkout people have done nothing to advertise it,” said Marge Gersic, a Realtor for Long & Foster who lives in Great Falls. “From past experience, most of the county people don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
“You’ve got every marketing advantage,” one resident told Hancock and John Mayberry of Solid Waste at the GFCA meeting. “What’s missing is that the new residents don’t know you exist.”
Dranesville Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn said both the Great Falls and McLean Citizens Associations will try to get more residents to use the parkouts by making sure they know about them.
A member of Mendelsohn’s staff is developing a flyer to announce the service, because no application forms presently exist.
Mayberry and Hancock said it is up to the communities, particularly real estate agents and homeowner association newsletters, to advertise the parkouts.
Parkout workers earn time and a half for overtime pay, a point that irked some citizens at the GFCA meeting.
“The fees are high on Saturdays because [workers] are on one and a half time for overtime pay. There is nothing we can do about that,”
LONGTIME GREAT FALLS parkout user Charles DiBona, a former president of the American Petroleum Institute, disagreed.
“You biased all your costs for the people here,” DiBona said. Since the parkouts came first, DiBona argued it is the residential routes that drive the overtime costs.
“We were here first,” DiBona said, suggesting the parkout workers be scheduled Tuesday through Saturday to avoid overtime pay.
“I’d be happy to design the system for you,” DiBona said. He questioned why the parkout has become a major budget issue.
“Why was this an issue? If they continue [the parkouts], we will pay $225 each, and it will fully pay any additional cost for the county to provide the service,” he said. “The budget will not be affected either way.
“Why did they make it sound as if it was such an issue for [Dranesville District Supervisor Stu] Mendelsohn to deal with?
“It was irrelevant,” said DiBona.
GREAT FALLS RESIDENTS said they are grateful the service will continue, even with the price increase.
“There are a lot of things in life [in which] you don’t have much choice,” said Tim Hardy of Great Falls, who has used the parkout for more than 15 years because “It’s easy, and I’ve gotten used to it.
“My understanding is it would cost more to have it picked up [in his neighborhood]. I don’t think many people on my street use the home pickup service,” he said.
“They ought to keep the laborers, and get rid of the supervisors,” DiBona said. He also questioned “all this stuff about the gasoline prices going up,” DiBona said. “It will much more affect [the trucks] going from one house to another than if they drive here and sit for four hours.”
But Hancock and Mayberry said they couldn’t cut either the laborer or the supervisor.
Nor can they establish untended dumpster drop-offs, he said, because of the liability risk and unauthorized use.
Gersic said she will make sure applications for parkout permits go to everyone who is given a contract package when they shop for houses in Great Falls.
In addition to her own agency, she will also ask Weichert and Coldwell Banker to participate, Gersic said.
For now at least, parkout hours remain the same: 8 a.m. to noon in Great Falls and 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in McLean.
After July 1, each will be shortened by 30 minutes. One laborer will also be cut.