The City Council came face to face with Waste Management representative Ed Pacek on Tuesday evening, to address concerns of poor work quality on behalf of the residents. The meeting between the Council, Commissioner of the Department of Public Works, Andy Hall, and Pacek came as a result of numerous complaints from residents throughout the city.
Ward 2 Councilor Richard Starbard admitted that the inconsistent trash and yard waste pickup is like nothing he has ever seen before.
“Over the past several months, I’ve sent out 18 emails to Ward 2 residents, all related to pick-up delays,” said Starbard, who initially thought the delays were a result of the windstorms in October. “The problem has only gotten worse since then and leave bags have been sitting out in the rain and snow for weeks.”
According to Pacek, the initial delay was a result of a miscommunication with the schedule. After a schedule had been published and sent out to residents based on the previous calendar year, the yard waste route was run the week of Thanksgiving instead of the following week when residents expected. In turn, residents waited until the week after Thanksgiving to put yard waste out, causing a light load the previous week, and a delayed pick-up the next.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t notice that there was a week that had changed from one year to the next and we built our schedule based off of what the year before was,” said Pacek. “We didn’t do our due diligence by looking at the calendar in advance and we will certainly do that in the future, instead of requesting a change midstream like we did.”
According to Councilor Starbard, Waste Management’s work looked more like missed streets and random missed houses, on dates when the residents expected their yard waste to be picked up. Starbard, along with his fellow councilors, compiled lists of missed houses to present to waste management and there were no improvements. One truck was seen picking up yard waste on the odd side of a two-way narrow street, and not returning to collect the even side of the street.
“There is really no rhyme or reason to what is going on,” said Starbard.
According to Pacek, one of the challenges with yard waste pickup is that it’s difficult to gauge. Unlike trash and recycling, yard pickup is an add-on service with drivers who aren’t always familiar with the route. The volume varies and the assets remained fixed, so some weeks, the fixed two trucks are enough to get the job done, and other weeks the DPW needs to be notified so another truck can go back out the next day to collect the rest.
While the delay in yard waste pickup was what propelled the conversation, several other complaints arose over Waste Management’s lack of service over previous months.
Council President Cyr said that this was the worst service he’s seen it in his 16 years as councilor.
“In addition to missed trash and yard waste pickups, I don’t like the condition of some of the vehicles that are coming into the city, leaving oil stains on the roadways. In my neighborhood today, the truck was doing a decent job but there was oil all over the street. If it’s on my street it’s on other streets. Also, a few weeks ago, a driver drove over my trash barrel and just went on to the next house, without even stopping.”
Cyr went on to present a video captured by a resident, which showed a driver whipping a barrel over a snowbank and breaking it, before promising the resident he would receive a new barrel, which never arrived.
“This is very concerning to me and it’s not the values that we encourage,” said Pacek. “I advise everyone to let us know when something like this comes up because we can’t address it if we don’t know.”
In response to the complaints, Pacek is offering an additional week of yard waste pickup, which started on Monday, December 9, and will be completed on Saturday, December 14. The bonus week will require the company to pick up yard waste on every single street in the city.
“We realize the frustration that everyone here, as well as the residents, have experienced. This week will be of considerable cost to us, but we value the relationship we have with the city and would like to keep it.”
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