EAST PEORIA — And then there was one.
East Peoria residents eager to haul their junk to the curb for Spring Cleanup Week will have to wait until the end of summer. The City Council this week agreed to reduce the number of citywide cleanup operations from two to one. The Public Works Department has canceled the spring cleanup and rescheduled the fall clean up for the week of Sept. 10, which is actually still summer. For years the cleanups were held in May and October.
The first of two annual cleanup weeks is a victim of budget cuts.
Commissioner Dan Decker, who might be the city's most outspoken and enthusiastic cleanup week advocate, begrudgingly supported the budget that eliminated the spring event.
"I would rather see two, but I did not want to lose both," Decker said this week. "It was not worth risking both to get exactly what you want."
Decker argued that there might not be a huge cost saving to the city. He said one cleanup a year might take twice as long to complete, thus negating any substantial savings.
"I'm anxious to see how it works out," Decker said. "I hope next year we see that (one cleanup) was the right thing to do and that I was wrong."
It's difficult to calculate the precise savings of reducing the number of cleanup weeks to one a year. The budget shows a savings of $17,000 a year, but that is merely the cost of tipping fees at the landfill, an amount that could increase if residents only have one shot a year at discarding large items.
Commissioner Gary Densberger said the change is a good example of how the council needs to operate.
"We can't continue to do business the way we've always done business," Densberger said. "We need to find a better way to deliver services that is more cost effective."
Public Works Director Dennis Barron said his office receives numerous calls every day from residents asking about the dates of this year's Spring Cleanup. Many have been less than thrilled to learn that it has been canceled. He defended the action as necessary in tight financial times.
"A week of using public works employees for cleanup is a week of taking them off of their regular street maintenance duties when they could be fixing streets," Barron said.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at email@example.com. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.