Advisors grill Providence waste contractor amid rising complaints
PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – Amid a spike in complaints about missed pickups of garbage, recycling and yard waste, Providence City Council members seek to hold private contractor Waste Management accountable for its contract multi-million dollar with the city.
City councilors toasted the leadership of Waste Management – which receives more than $ 7 million from the city’s taxpayers each year – at a finance committee meeting on Tuesday night, describing an influx of calls regarding the no – garbage collection, leading to an overflow of garbage cans in the neighborhoods.
“I personally sent lists after lists of missed streets,” said Councilor Jo-Ann Ryan, chair of the finance committee. “It is a complete and utter embarrassment, besides being completely and utterly unacceptable.”
City Councilor Nicholas Narducci said he has also seen an increase in trash or recyclables falling to the ground when picking up trash and being left behind.
“They take off and leave debris all over our streets,” Narducci said. “I’m tired of putting up with this. If they miss the truck, they should go out and pick up the remaining garbage. “
Data from the city’s 311 complaints system submitted to the council shows a significant spike in recent months, including in April this year when yard waste collection began.
There were 220 complaints of missed garbage collection in April 2021 versus 45 complaints in the same month last year, and 248 in May 2021 versus 75 last year, according to the 311 report. (The report does not include not calls made directly to Waste Management.)
Missed garbage collection was the second most common complaint to the 311 system in 2020, more common than potholes and noise complaints. (Housing code issues were the most common complaint.)
Waste Management is paid $ 277,000 per month by the city for garbage pickup, $ 262,000 per month for recycling and $ 75,000 per month for seasonal yard waste and holiday tree pickup. The current contract provides that these payments will increase on July 1.
Jim Nocella, director of public sector solutions for waste management, told advisers the company is currently experiencing a labor shortage. This, coupled with an increase in waste from people working from home, has sometimes caused them to fall behind on pick-ups.
“If you look across the country, one of the most serious labor shortages is for CDL licensed truck drivers,” Nocella said. “We are not immune from this.”
He said the volume of waste increased by 15-18% during the pandemic.
“We were asked to collect a lot more material than we had been asked before,” Nocella said. “Bulk items don’t make the charts. (Residents must pre-schedule bulk item pickup with Waste Management.)
Nocella said the company is offering signing bonuses and referral incentives to try to hire more employees.
“I don’t want to hear that you don’t have the manpower,” Narducci said. “Do your job.” He suggested that the city consider contracting with another waste management company.
Waste Management’s contract says it can be fined $ 1,000 for not collecting the waste on collection day, and $ 2,500 for mixing recycling and garbage – which Target 12 reported earlier this year was captured on video by an owner.
“Have you ever paid fines? Ryan asked Nocella.
“I don’t remember paying a fine,” he replied.
Leo Perrotta, the director of public works, admitted that the Elorza administration could do more to enforce the contract.
“We could go further and fine them,” Perrotta told councilors. “I don’t know if it’s advisable, but we can do it.”
“We are trying to work together as a team to get there,” he added. “We understand their problems, we try to understand this. But if it gets worse, this is an option open to us. “
City Councilor Michael Correia presented a non-binding resolution for Thursday’s plenary council meeting asking the administration to impose the penalties in the waste management contract.
Ryan said on Wednesday the committee would explore all options to get the company to properly fulfill its contract.
“They are not performing,” Ryan said. “It feels like every board member is in the garbage business. Our phones light up.
Mayor Elorza’s press secretary Ben Smith said the city was “committed to working with Waste Management to provide the best quality services to our residents.”
No fines have yet been imposed on the company, Smith confirmed.