ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – Some rural New Mexicans who pay to have their trash hauled away each week say the solid waste department has turned its back on them, no longer collecting garbage in certain areas. North Central Solid Waste Authority’s Manager, Janet Saucedo, says the COVID-19 pandemic caused a trickle-down effect leaving them short-staffed. “We have a temporary suspension of curbside pickup in county roads and private drives due to the staff shortage,” said Saucedo.

Saucedo says the policy took effect last Friday, leaving people living on county and private roads to make the extra trek and move their waste bins closer to main roads. “We would be able to pick up their poly carts at that point. If they cannot, then they are encouraged to take their poly carts to the nearest transfer station, which is the alcalde transfer station or the collection centers,” added Saucedo.

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Some residents who are elderly, disabled, or just don’t have the time in their busy schedules say they need a better solution. I think Rio Arriba county needs to figure out what they want for us to do, or north central solid waste needs to contract someone out to fulfill what they are not able to fulfill,” said one Rio Arriba resident.

The Solid Waste Authority manager says she feels the frustration of residents but insists there are more pressing issues. “We have probably the oldest fleet I have on one that is 20 years old, and to service, all of Rio Arriba county is just not feasible. It’s not safe for my drivers, and so we need some help,” said Saucedo. With the policy in place, residents say they are still being billed. “We’re sitting here wondering where all of our fees are going that we are paying monthly if they don’t have functioning vehicles, they don’t have staffing,” said one Rio Arriba resident.

Saucedo says fees cover the cost of waste disposal, not curbside pickup. She adds the policy is temporary. However, it won’t be going away until eight out of the 10 positions needed for drivers are filled. A job fair will be held on October 1 at the Plaza De Española.