Abandoned mattresses pile up in Youngstown
Health department wants them wrapped before being trashed
YOUNGSTOWN — During the COVID-19 pandemic, Youngstown has seen an outbreak of a different sort — abandoned mattresses.
The problem has become so severe that city council had to amend a contract with Michael’s Lawn Service to fund the collection of mattresses.
The Youngstown company is paid $20 by the city for each mattress it picks up and brings to the landfill.
In 2017, it collected 188 mattresses. It grew to 213 in 2018 and 219 last year.
But the number exploded this year, particularly since the pandemic began. It’s approaching 1,200 and increasing by the day, city Health Commissioner Erin Bishop said.
The city went over budget with the $20,000 contract it had with the company, operated by Mike Yarn, and city council amended it to pay up to $45,000 this year.
The city is highly unlikely to pay that much as Yarn this year would have to pick up almost as many mattresses in the last two-plus months of the year as he has the rest of 2020.
But why has there been such a problem with abandoned mattresses in Youngstown this year?
It’s a variety of things, Bishop said.
In mid-March because of the pandemic, Bishop said she ordered that any mattress not wrapped in plastic, even if it was with regular trash, would not be picked up by city sanitation workers.
“We are concerned about bed bugs and COVID, so we decided to not pick up unwrapped mattresses,” she said. “They won’t pick up mattresses without (plastic) covers. Also, we can’t fit them on the truck. They take up a lot of room.”
People cleaned out houses during the pandemic at a higher rate than usual and wanted to get rid of old mattresses but didn’t bother bagging them so they were left curbside or in abandoned houses, she said.
“We had one house with 25 mattresses inside,” she said.
People also are coming to Youngstown to dump old mattresses, Bishop added.
Michael Durkin, the city’s superintendent of code enforcement and blight remediation, said: “It wouldn’t be prudent of us to pick them up if they’re not bagged.”
Yarn wears a protective suit with a face mask and gloves when picking up the mattresses, Bishop said.
UNIQUE TO CITY
Bishop acknowledged the problem is unique to Youngstown in the Mahoning Valley.
“I don’t think it’s happening at the level of Youngstown elsewhere in the area,” Bishop said.
Mahoning County Health Commissioner Ryan Tekac said his department “did not issue any orders restricting the items picked up during trash service” during the pandemic.
Kristofer Wilster, director of environmental health for the Trumbull County Combined Health District, also said his department didn’t change any policies for garbage pickup because of COVID-19.
Youngstown council members are concerned about the increase, but voted 6-1 in favor of increasing the contract. Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, was the lone no vote.
“It seems like we have to spend a lot of money on this and shouldn’t have to,” Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward said. “We need to engage our citizens” in how to bag mattresses properly.
Bishop said the city has sent notices to residents about the issue, but it hasn’t helped.
“We can do better,” Oliver responded.
Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, said the huge increase this year is “crazy,” and the $45,000 expense is “the salary of a worker. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Councilwoman Basia Adamczak, D-7th Ward, said: “It’s a lot of money. It’s a significant amount of money to pick up mattresses.”