After receiving a record number of trash service complaints within the last couple of weeks, the city’s Public Works Committee held a special-called meeting on Monday to discuss the issue.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of life, including trash collection, Interim Public Works Director Marshall Boyd told committee members and several other aldermen who attended the meeting via Zoom.
“In the past couple of weeks, the number of complaints has reached levels we have never experienced and are never comfortable with,” said Boyd. He attributed the amount of complaints regarding missed trash pick-up to staffing issues with Waste Pro due to COVID-19.
The city entered into a five-year contract with Waste Pro in July of 2019 to provide once-a-week, back-door trash pick-up to roughly 19,000 homes.
Boyd proposed the city move to a curbside pick-up service for 90 days in order to help with staffing issues. The city would evaluate the issue on a weekly basis, and would continue to allow back-door service for those who weren’t physically able to take their trash to the curb, he added.
“Of course, the city’s bill will be adjusted for curbside during this time,” said Boyd.
He said the curbside service would require less staff and is a safer option than back-door service.
Boyd added he’s talked with other cities like Gallatin and Goodlettsville – both of which have curbside service. Neither are experiencing trash pick-up issues, he said.
Waste Pro representative Roland Joyner told committee members the company is experiencing both an increase in the volume of trash it’s collecting as well as staffing issues. Many employees have either tested positive for COVID-19, or have been required to be quarantined, he noted.
“Any type of help we can get to get everyone serviced is greatly appreciated,” he said.
Lori Cate, who also represents Waste Pro, said the issue is not unique to Hendersonville.
“An entire company and an entire industry is experiencing this,” she said.
Ward 6 Alderman Eddie Roberson said the city received more than 500 complaints in June and noted the company did not mention staffing issues at that time.
“Our main staffing issues occurred within the last week to 10 days,” said Joyner. “We’re trying to get that rectified.”
Several aldermen said they didn’t think asking residents to bring their trash to the curb was a viable option and that it would create even more confusion.
“The people of the city are so upset now I think that would just add more fuel to the fire,” said Ward 3 Alderwoman Arlene Cunningham. “If we discontinue back-door [service] we’re going to have World War III on our hands here in Hendersonville. That’s just the mindset of the citizens.”
Some of the confusion stems from the trash pick-up contract itself, noted Ward 5 Alderman Jonathan Hayes. Hayes was one of several aldermen who mentioned during the meeting that the contract signed by Waste Pro doesn’t include yard waste pick-up – a decision made by Boyd and Mayor Jamie Clary without other board members’ knowledge.
“We all thought when the bids went out, y’all would pick up yard waste,” said Ward 4 Alderman Andy Bolt who encouraged Waste Pro to look at other options besides a switch to curbside pick-up for 90 days.
Several aldermen, including Cunningham and Mayor Jamie Clary, asked that Waste Pro bring in a third party to help them with trash collection.
Joyner said the company would be open to that suggestion.
Roberson first proposed a recommendation that included asking residents to take their trash to the curb on a voluntary basis, but withdrew it saying it would confuse residents.
Roberson’s recommendation to the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed the committee 2 to 1 and included the following: 1. Ask Waste Pro to explore the possibility of hiring subcontractors to help the company. 2. Instruct City Attorney John Bradley, Interim City Administrator Dave LeMarbre and Boyd to advise the committee on what enforcement measures can be made in relation to the city’s contract with Waste Pro like fines or penalties. 3. Ask the company to report to staff any miss that goes more than 24 hours without being resolved. 4. Ask the company to let Boyd know of any major issues with staffing and service ahead of time so that the city is aware of the issues.
Chairman Mark Skidmore voted against Roberson’s proposal.
“I voted no because I don’t think the measures went far enough,” Skidmore said after the meeting.
Skidmore says the city had problems with the company before the recent issues with COVID-19.
He expects there to be more discussion of the issue at the July 28 BOMA meeting.
“I just think the board is fed up with having this every other week problem in Hendersonville,” he said. “We’re just frustrated.”