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New Streets and Sanitation boss delivers housekeeping news council members want to hear

Newly appointed Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Cole Stallard said the shortage of 96-gallon garbage carts will be fixed, thanks to $918,000 provided by the Office of Budget and Management. Also, a year-long wait for tree-trimming will be cut by adding 11 crews, for a total of 25.

A worker with the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation loads a garbage truck in the 7500 block of North Ridge Boulevard in Rogers Park
A worker with the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation loads a garbage truck in the 7500 block of North Ridge Boulevard in Rogers Park
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Newly appointed Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Cole Stallard on Tuesday delivered the news that City Council members wanted to hear: the shortage of garbage carts will finally be eliminated and an influx of crews will reduce the year-long wait to get a tree trimmed.

Stallard’s Department of Streets and Sanitation can make or break a council member.

If the garbage doesn’t get picked up on time or the streets don’t get plowed fast enough after a major snowstorm, the council member not only gets the blame; he or she could be thrown out of office.

That’s why Stallard’s debut performance at council budget hearings was music to the members’ ears.

Stallard said the chronic shortage of 96-gallon garbage carts will be eliminated, thanks to $918,000 provided by the Office of Budget and Management in response to his appeal.

“I looked back three years because I know, being a former ward superintendent, the importance of cart delivery. I met with aldermen. The No. 1 thing on everyone’s agenda was access to carts,” Stollard said.

Then he met with Budget Director Susie Park, and “when I laid it out that for the last three, four years, we’ve been taking from January to the following year to fill our fourth quarter — and it’s pretty much the same number every year — I said, ‘Is there any way we can find $918,000 to become current? ... And she gave us that $918,000 to become current. So the carts are on the way.”

The good news for council members extended to tree-trimming, another historically backlogged and shortchanged service with a one-year lag time that is critical to Chicago residents.

“Again, that was something that I heard loud and clear from everybody when I came in in July,” he said.

“We’re getting laborers at the end of this quarter and at the beginning of next year. So, we’ll be going from 14 crews that we’re putting out a day now to 25. And we’re in further discussion to see if we can make that a little bit better”

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, was thrilled with that news and with Stallard’s claim that 30 seasonal laborers will be added between April 15 and Nov. 1 to “assist in areas of need.”

“We should have got you years ago, man. You’re getting trees trimmed. You’re getting all of this stuff,” Ervin said.

Budget Committee Chairman Pat Dowell (3rd) cut Ervin off — playfully.

“Don’t be suckin’ up,” Dowell said to laughter.

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) added, “It truly was.” Then she did some of her own buttering up of the man who replaced retired Streets and Sanitation Commissioner John Tully.

“Cole, it couldn’t have happened to a better person....We’re glad to see you there as commissioner,” Austin said.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) said there are trees in his West Side ward that have been waiting to be trimmed for two years along with dead trees in danger of falling that need to be removed.

“I can’t say it enough: Forestry, forestry forestry,” Taliaferro said.

The news was not so good for the parade of residents who used the public comment period that preceded Tuesday’s hearing to plead for $2 million in additional spending to treat and save Chicago’s 50,000 remaining Emerald Ash Borer trees.

Malcolm Whiteside, deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Forestry, pretty much shot down the request.

For one thing, Whiteside said the $2 million cost cited by residents was “misleading,” a low-ball figure that’s “just for the chemicals.”

“We’re missing the $4 million that needs to be added for the personnel, the equipment and the vehicles. Also, you have to take a pesticide and applicators license [exam] through the state of Illinois,” Whiteside said.

What the advocates “need to understand is that the chemical was never to save the trees,” Whiteside said.

“We started this in 2008. The application was just to keep us going until we was prepared with the personnel to be able to remove the remaining trees. When we started this, there was 96,000 ash trees. Now, we’re down to 50,000,” he said.

“So we feel in our business that there’s enough chemicals in those trees to last for another 10 years. And [then], we can start removing those trees.”