Toward the end of this week’s city council meeting, Mayor Brian Marl brought up several complaints he has fielded from citizens, dating back as far as two years, concerning late or absent waste removal services.
The city contracts Waste Management for the task.
“I think it was back around Easter 2017 when there was an occasion where there was no garbage, yard waste or recycling pickup along Mark Hannah Court,” Marl said, mentioning how he and city management worked quickly in the following days to make sure all of it was eventually taken away.
Marl said in the time since then, he has become aware of several more similar examples of basic city waste collection services being neglected.
“I’ll take a step back; I really believe that trash, recycling and yard waste pickup is a baseline for our citizens. They expect that to be prompt and timely and for their items to be retrieved and not forgotten,” he said. “As all my colleagues know, we pay quite a bit to have our yard waste, our recycling and our trash picked up, so again there’s been some examples over the past year-and-half, two years where recycling or trash haven’t been picked or there’s been significant delays, and it’s required either our DPW director (Jeff Fordice) or city manager (Todd Campbell) to get on the phone and contact somebody at Waste Management.”
Aside from bringing the waste removal concerns to light at the meeting, Marl implored Campbell to continue to have an open dialogue with representatives at Waste Management to try to understand the nature of such delays, why they happen, and what can be done to prevent similar hiccups in the future.
“I’m hoping perhaps that you can reach out to your contacts, or have Mr. Fordice reach out to your contacts at Waste Management and say, ‘We understand on occasion there are going to be delays,’ but it’s really important that they proactively communicate that with us so that we can disseminate the information on our website, on Facebook, social media, or whatever other mechanism or mediums we use to connect with our residents.”
Campbell said he will continue to hammer home the city’s perspective.
“We have reached out and we will continue reaching out and we will add this information, for certain, but what they told us is that they encountered, have been encountering, staffing issues and so they’re borrowing people from other departments if you will, other areas, to try and provide a good, solid service,” he said.
Campbell said despite that, he will make it clear that pickup mistakes should be remedied the same day, within reason.
Trustee Dean Girbach said simply knowing how and when Waste Management officials can consistently be reached would be a step in the right direction.
“It would be nice to know what their actual hours are,” he said, citing frustration in not knowing how to get in touch with an appropriate contact when the end of the day arrives, and trash is still sitting at the curb.
Trustee Heidi McClelland said she has also experienced waste removal delays first-hand.
“Just this last week, on Henry Street, I think the recycling and yard waste got picked up fairly early, maybe 11 a.m. or so,” she said, saying she wondered if her kids simply put the trash out late and missed the pickup. “I don’t think they showed up until maybe 7:30 p.m.”
Trustee Christen Mitchell said it boils down to being proactive and holding people the city does business with to account.
“I just wanted to stress that, I think, in our efforts to serve our citizens well, that being proactive is one of the most helpful things that we can do,” she said. “Coming from a high-stakes health industry, setting expectations is an excellent way and it also builds trust. So, the more proactive we can be, the more we can set expectations for citizens and, also give them an avenue and steer them, you know if you have a genuine problem, ‘here’s somebody that can help.’”
Marl said his bottom line on the issue is making sure community members stay informed.
“If the standard is that they’re transitioning more toward late in the afternoon, evening pickup, I’m okay with that, I just want to be able to communicate that my constituents,” he said.
Marl asked Campbell to report back on the matter at a subsequent council meeting.