He said time will be needed to educate the public about the change and so trash haulers can change their schedules. He also doesn’t want to implement it in winter, when snow and ice could delay trash pick-ups.
He predicted some haulers will want to start picking up trash at 5 a.m. rather than 6 a.m.
“We’ll have to debate that issue. In other communities, they pick up trash from midnight until 6 in the morning. I think our sister city Allentown does that. I’m not in favor of that.”
The mayor said he’s also not in favor of a single hauler getting a contract to pick up trash for the entire city. He told residents: “I’d like you to keep your own haulers. Prices really vary and competition is good.”
Sunday trash downtown
On another issue, Donchez agreed with a woman who said accumulated trash in downtown Bethlehem on Sundays is “a disgrace.”
That trash apparently is a result of the popularity of center-city restaurants, many featuring outdoor dining, on Saturdays.
The mayor said the city may bring in people on overtime to empty trash containers on Sundays and it already has asked some merchants if they are willing to do the same.
He said the trash is an eyesore.
“If you’re coming to Bethlehem for the first time on a Sunday, and you’re going downtown to eat, and you see trash on the sidewalks, it looks like hell. If you’re coming into the city, it’s your first impression. And if you have a negative impression, you’re not coming back. It’s not the image we want.”
He added: “The downtown is vibrant and that’s very good. Restaurants are good, they’re a destination. But I don’t want to have a downtown of all restaurants. I want a balance of restaurants and retail.”
He said downtown business vacancies are difficult to fill because of competition from the Promenade shops in Upper Saucon Township and more competition anticipated from the Hamilton Crossings shopping center planned in Lower Macungie Township.
Roads and bridges
The mayor reported that PennDOT’s reconstruction of Route 412, which links Interstate 78 with the heart of the city, is a year behind schedule and won’t be completed until Christmas 2016, at the earliest.
He said the first thing developers interested in property in the nearby Lehigh Valley Industrial Park want to know is when that road work will be done. “The answer they’re getting is not the answer they want.”
He reported an 18-month, $30-million reconstruction of the Fahy Bridge, which carries New Street traffic over the Lehigh River, will begin next spring.
And he said six to eight years from now, the Hill-to-Hill Bridge over the Lehigh will get a complete makeover.
Michael Alkhal, the city’s public works director, told residents Bethlehem has not spent enough to properly maintain its 258 miles of roads, adding doing so would cost up to $2 million a year but the city has been spending no more than $600,000 a year.
Donchez said the city will prepare an estimated $5 million bond early next year that will include money for street improvements, possibly including resurfacing Pennsylvania Avenue, which he agreed is a major street.
New city website
Bethlehem’s new website will be unveiled the beginning of next year, reported Donchez.
The current “antiquated” website is being redesigned and will become more interactive when completed.
He invited residents to let him know if they want to be part of a small focus group to review the new website to make sure it’s right before it goes public, saying: “I don’t want to roll this out like Obamacare and let it be a disaster.”
The long-vacant and privately-owned Martin Tower building is large, inefficiently designed, contains asbestos and lacks a sprinkler system, said the mayor.