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Posted on April 18, 2023 at 2:10 PM by Ken Kocher
Tim Thomas, Stephen Warren and Craig Jarrell
Every week, three men - one driving, two collecting - scoop up more than 120,000 pounds of garbage from residential customers in Madison. They do so in the broiler that is August and the deep freeze of December. If it’s raining, they collect. If it’s 10 degrees, they collect. If it's 100 degrees, they collect.
On Monday and Friday, the team of Craig Jarrell, Tim Thomas, and recently hired Stephen Warren, collect more than 10 tons of trash per day. On Tuesday and Thursday 20 tons per day are collected and taken to the Morgan County transfer station. On Wednesday the team patrols Madison in the “junk” trunk, an open bed truck that picks up everything from discarded furniture to mattresses.
The men begin each day at 7 a.m. and work until the route is complete. They have, Jarrell says, eight hours to complete the route. If they do so with efficiency and hard work and get done earlier, they get done earlier. “If they want to roll, that’s on them,” Jarrell says.
Jarrell has been driving the truck for the past 16 years and serves as both the supervisor for the crew and an important look-out for the men. “It’s my job to keep them safe. People sometimes get mad because I have to block the street.” Jarrell says that at times he must position the truck to protect his crew. “There have been plenty of times they’ve almost gotten hit.” In fact, Jarrell begs for patience. “We want to keep them safe and get them home after a route.”
For Thomas, a lean, fit-looking man, the work has been fulfilling for the past 16 years. A collector, Tim breaks open a wide grin when he tries to describe his role on the team. “It’s a lot of walking,” he jokes. Warren, who has worked the truck for the past eight months, says he enjoys the freedom and labor of the truck. “I like it because it’s almost like a workout.” Jarrell says the workers have customers that appreciate the level of work it takes to keep the city clean. “These guys work in the rain, sleet, snow, it doesn’t matter,” he says. “We can’t keep Tim that skinny doing nothing,” he jokes.
Thomas is a father, as is Warren, as is Jarrell. Thomas says when the crew works hard, they can shave off time off the eight-hour shift. That, he says, allows him to “go home and rest up so I can do it again the next day.” For Jarrell, it’s about getting the important job done and getting through the rigors of collecting tons of garbage safely.
“At the end of the day, everybody gets to go home,” he says.