The folks in Cortez’s Refuse Department do their jobs in all weather and often start in the “gloom of night” to perform work most would find daunting.
Who are these hardworking people who keep us from succumbing under a mountain of trash, and what can citizens do to make their jobs easier?
Nine people compose the Cortez Refuse Department staff. They work five days a week, including holidays if they fall on a weekday. Their day begins at 6 a.m., concluding at 2 p.m. – unless there’s a breakdown, stretching out the day. Cortez has three trucks running daily routes with two guys per truck, a driver and a loader who switch roles every hour to provide a break from the elements. One is a temp filling in when needed; one a welder responsible for maintaining the equipment; and Supervisor Eddie Vialpando, who begins his day at 5 a.m.! Half the guys in the department have been on staff for 25 years, and then there is Eddie, who has been with the city for 41 years!
In 1997, the city switched to poly-carts, which the trucks can load and empty hydraulically. Residences are supplied with carts with weekly service for a monthly fee of $21.75 per cart. An additional cart is available upon request for an additional fee. These receptacles are to be used for household waste only – no dirt, lawn debris or construction materials. The city will also collect up to three additional 33-gallon trashcans of yard debris along with two small hand-tied bundles of tree limbs. Residents are asked to keep additional containers under 60 pounds. Overloaded poly-carts may not be emptied. And please, no dead animals; contact Animal Control (970-565-8441) for information on disposal. And hose out poly-carts for cleanliness and to reduce odor.
Improper disposal of needles is a concern for staff. Two workers have recently received needle sticks. We are working to see if it might be possible to establish needle collection sites in town, but until those details are worked out, residents who use needles are requested to cap them, if possible, and place them in a rigid plastic or metal container such as a soda pop bottle or coffee can, and seal the lid. Needle sticks are stressful as well as a potential health threat to staff so please, dispose of these items properly.
The city also offers free curbside recycling. If you are interested, staff will provide a green recycling bin at your home for weekly pickup. We ask that you familiarize yourself with items that we can recycle and separate plastics, paper, etc., to make collection more efficient. The city actually loses money on this service, but we believe our residents want us to be environmentally responsible and this is one way we can all work together to reduce what goes into our landfill.
Did you know that the City has a “Door Service” for folks needing assistance getting their trash out to the pickup location? We do, and all it requires is a call to City Hall. We also offer auto-billing, which you can sign up for at any time, saving yourself the hassle of writing a monthly check or visiting City Hall to pay your bill. Simply give us a call: 970-565-3402.
The city is continuing our water conservation efforts and educational programming. We are in the final stages of completing a demonstration bed featuring several varieties of water-wise grasses. This is located on the northwest corner of the Police Department grounds. Staff is also working on a rain barrel workshop, and Robby Henes, with Southwest Seed Company, has agreed to offer a workshop entitled “Landscaping for a Drier World.” She’ll provide tips for water-wise gardening along with information on the use of wildflowers to add color and interest to your landscaping. Check the city website, cityofcortez.com, under the “Water Is Our Future” tab, for additional information on these and other upcoming programs.
On another note, Aug. 26, Women’s Equality Day, marks an important day in our nation’s history. While the 19th Amendment “prohibiting the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex” was ratified on August 18, 1920, it was not certified until August 26. It’s been said that due to the number of new voters this created, the 19th Amendment was “the single biggest democratizing event in American history.” It followed the 15th Amendment, which prohibited any citizen from being denied the right to vote based on “race, color or being a former slave.” The 15th Amendment was further refined with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, aimed at overcoming legal barriers enacted at the state and local levels preventing African-Americans from exercising their right to vote.
These three pieces of legislation are great examples of this country as a work in progress.” I believe that as we grow and mature as a nation, and know better, that we are constantly in the process of doing better.. We just have to keep working at it!
Karen Sheek is the mayor of Cortez, a position elected by Cortez City Council members. Reach her at email@example.com or during her office hours from 12:30-1:30 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.