The Hendersonville Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to approve a $10,687 fine on the City’s trash provider, Waste Pro, following several weeks of issues.
The fine will be deducted from the payment for December service. The normal monthly payment is around $227,000, according to Robert Manning, finance director.
Marshall Boyd, public works director, presented the number for the fine at a special-called Public Works Committee meeting Tuesday morning. The number is based on the number of complaints per week extending back to the week of Nov. 30.
The original fine the Public Works Department came up with was $21,375. However, the City and Waste Pro decided that the City would enact half the fine now and leave the other half in abeyance. WastePro said that if the Public Works Committee is unhappy with service any time in the next six months, they can enact the rest of the fine.
Tim Dolan, vice president of governmental affairs with Waste Pro, said that he would leave the definition of “unhappy” to the discretion of the Public Works Committee.
“If you don’t feel like we’re living up to the commitments that [we’ve] made to you guys, then assess me the rest of the fine,” Dolan told the committee.
The City’s contract with Waste Pro allows them to fine the company based on how many more than 50 justified complaints are received. For 50 or fewer complaints a week, no fine is assessed. For weeks with 51-75 complaints, the company can be fined $50 per excess complaint. For weeks with 76-100 complaints, the company can be fined $75 per excess complaint, and for weeks with over 100 complaints, the company can be fined $100 per excess complaint.
For example, the highest week of calculated fines was the week of Nov. 30: $10,800 for 158 complaints, Boyd shared.
While there have been cases of whole streets not getting their trash picked up, the current fine system is based on the number of complaints received, not necessarily the number of houses missed, Boyd clarified. He said that if whole streets that were missed or rolled over to the next day were counted in the fine determination, the fine would be “hundreds of thousands” of dollars.
Roberson said that going forward, Waste Pro has agreed to a liberal interpretation of “complaints” to include whole streets that are missed. Waste Pro will report to the Public Works Committee the aggregate number of houses when they miss a street, and each house will count as a complaint.
Waste Pro will also have 24 hours to correct a submitted miss without it counting against their complaints for the week.
The City has been contracting with Waste Pro for 18 months, and there have been some problems, most recently in July and December of last year. At a special-called BOMA meeting to discuss the trash issue last Thursday, the aldermen aired their grievances with the company.
Ward 5 Alderman Rachel Collins said that her constituents hadn’t had trash picked up since before Christmas, with an entire neighborhood going six days with trash on the curb.
In that meeting, Waste Pro promised to catch up on trash collection by that Saturday, January 9, and they did, according to Collins.
In the special called meeting, BOMA asked for Waste Pro to present a plan of improvement and for City staff to present a number for a fine to the Public Works Committee.
Plan for improvement
At the special-called Public Works Committee meeting Tuesday morning, Waste Pro presented their plans for how they would fix the trash pickup issues going forward.
Dolan said that the company is adding two more trucks to Hendersonville as backup and will be bringing two new supervisors to help with staffing. They are changing their hiring practices so that they will have the appropriate depth for when employees and drivers are sick or unable to come to work.
Dolan said Tuesday night that the company had updated its “hot list” of homes with habitual complaints and had submitted it to the City. The company will be sending someone by to check that the “hot list” homes are completed satisfactorily. They also made a commitment to resolve complaints in 24 hours.
Dolan said that most of these fixes are part of Phase 1 of the improvement process, to stop the aldermen’s phones from ringing. Phase 2 is more long-term and requires route analysis to see what routes are working and which have grown and need revamped.
Bulk pickup suspension
In the Public Works Committee meeting, Mayor Jamie Clary brought up the fact that WastePro suspended bulk pickup last spring. Lori Cate, municipal marketing director of Waste Pro, explained that due to the increase in trash from people staying at home during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Waste Pro could not collect both bulk items and garbage fast enough.
The company determined with City staff that it was better to collect the “dirty” household trash and leave the bulk items until they could be picked up due to the increased volume.
Ward 6 Alderman Eddie Roberson asked that the Public Works Committee be made aware whenever staff is changing a contract in the future.
“The Public Works committee is not trying to interfere with the administration of the City, but we just want to make sure that we are aware that staff is making a change in altering the contract,” Roberson said.
Cate said that with the new plan for having adequate staffing, Waste Pro would not suspend bulk service again.
Dumpsters for excess trash
To help fill the gap in the lack of service, the City has temporarily put out two dumpsters for residents to bring their trash to if they wish. However, Boyd was optimistic that these dumpsters would not have to be out for long.
One dumpster is at 223 Freehill Road next to the next Fire Department, and the other is slated to move from Volunteer Park to Country Hills Golf Course after Ward 6 Alderman Jim Waters opposed having one in his ward.
Collins said that even though she has received complaints about misplaced bins and trash on the ground, in general, her constituents love their garbage driver and helper.
Ward 4 Alderman Karen Dixon commended Dolan on the changes that had already been implemented.
“This week I had so many people tell me that their experience was superior to where it had been,” Dixon said.