BRUNSWICK – City Council members indicated they are less than impressed with the rollout of the city’s new refuse hauling program when they called for a special meeting with representatives of Republic Waste late last month.
“This has been totally unacceptable,” Ward 4 Councilman Anthony Capretta told representatives for the city’s waste hauler July 22. “There have never been so many missed streets in my ward or so many missed pickups where the trash has been one, sometimes two days late getting picked up.”
Capretta, along with several other members of council, say the growing list of complaints from residents doesn’t stop there.
“Several of my residents have said they have been on-hold on the phone for over an hour when contacting the call center about switching their carts only to be told by the person that answers the phone that they have to call the city to do that,” he said. “These residents are confused and aggravated – and for good reason.”
TJ Rose, operations manager for Republic Waste, told council the many issues residents have been experiencing from the start of the program’s rollout in June are typical of those the company has witnessed in other neighboring communities that have made the conversion to fully automated pickups.
“You’re always going to have issues like this when it comes to a culture change like this one,” Rose said. “The residents in this community have become very familiar with putting everything out at the curb the way they were used to and now all that’s changed. It’s going to take some time.”
Council members were quick to point out, however, that the lion’s share of complaints center around Republic’s performance and far less with homeowners’ misunderstandings as to how the new system operates.
“You have to understand. This is not just in my ward. This is happening throughout the entire city,” Capretta said.
At-large Councilman Brian Ousley echoed his concerns, noting that the city received numerous complaints July 19 after the refuse hauler left broken glass on several streets in the Laurel Glen subdivision.
“This was almost on every street and people were out until 11 p.m. sweeping it up so they could drive their cars down them.”
On Briarleigh Drive, he added, a trash collector allegedly pulled too close to the curb and cut two phone lines on the street, leaving residents on the street without cable and internet service for several hours.
“It’s irresponsible for any driver to pick up a container without knowing first what’s above his head,” Ousley said, adding that the operator of the truck denied the allegations made by a resident.
Ward 2 Councilman Nicholas Hanek said he’s received several calls reporting inconsistencies in Republic’s processes. For example, while older trash cans have been picked up and disposed of in one neighborhood, that hasn’t been the case in others.
“So many residents have reported that the trash collector continues to leave the old trash cans, when they were told their old cans would be picked the week after their new ones were dropped off at the curb.
No matter the nature of the calls, Rose said Republic Waste is working daily to address any and all issues. The first week after cart distribution was complete, the call center residents were told to contact should they want to exchange carts or report any other issues, Rose said more than 150 calls were recorded.
“As we go through the program and the residents get more dialed into it, the number of calls both the call center and the city are receiving should diminish significantly,” he said, noting that Republic Waste has operations managers in Brunswick six to eight hours a day to correct the issues.
As far as old trash cans are concerned, Rose said Republic decided midway through the distribution of the new cans that they would refrain from picking up old cans until all the new ones were distributed citywide. He said that because the cans were distributed by neighborhood and not necessarily by trash collection day, Republic experienced several issues with old trash cans being disposed of before the new ones were distributed.
As for any messes the trash collectors leave behind, Rose said the company is also working to address those issues as well.
“(In the case of Laurel Glen) we sent a street sweeper out that night and the service director followed up and didn’t report any issues,” Rose said, noting that the body of the truck that was used in the neighborhood was worn out, allowing the glass to fall through.
With regard to missed deliveries, Rose said the contractor has responded to the complaints and the trash, in the majority of instances, was collected the following morning.
He explained that Republic hired two new drivers upon executing the new contract with Brunswick that are learning their routes, which accounted for the missed pickups. He said the remaining three drivers have worked in the city for the past six to seven years and are familiar with routes.
“Typically we say all of this takes six to eight weeks to calm down,” Rose said. “Right now, we’re right in the middle of that. But as we move forward it’s going to get better every day.”