For the last six months, complaints about trash service and yard waste pick-up in Leawood have persisted — prompting city officials to look to WCA Waste Corp. for answers.
On Monday, city administrator Scott Lambers granted the trash service provider a permit to operate through June 30, despite what he described as a sense of complacency when dealing with customer service issues. The expiration date puts WCA in line with annual renewals for other solid waste permit holders beginning July 1.
Lambers indicated that he would be comfortable with choosing another trash service provider if WCA failed to meet the city standard. Other cities in the area have also had service problems with WCA. Prairie Village ended its contract with Deffenbaugh Industries n 2016 after months of complaints about the service piled up.
“I think we’ve done more than enough by putting them on notice and handling it this way,” Lambers said at the City Council meeting.
Bob Mathis, district manager for the waste removal company, said the company was fully staffed at this time and had partnered with area companies like Compost Connection in Grandview to help tackle the workload. Between 30 percent to 40 percent of Leawood’s trash and yard waste service is now outsourced by WCA.
“We are a completely different company,” Mathis said. “We’ve made a lot of efforts to improve our customer service. I feel fully confident coming into the 2017 season that we won’t have any of the issues that we had in 2016.”
WCA lost 53 percent of its staff after acquiring Town & Country in late 2015. The drivers the company inherited failed or refused to take drug tests, weren’t physically fit, and had problematic driving records, WCA said. The staffing shortage led to significant delays in picking up Leawood trash, recyclables, and yard waste. Sometimes waste was not be picked up at all.
WCA was flooded with customer service calls from all the areas they serve in Missouri and Kansas, but service appears to be improving. For example, the 20,000 calls the company received at one point over a month was reduced to about 7,800 calls as of February. The number of those calls specifically from Leawood residents is unknown, but the city council had a record of about a dozen complaints on hand at Monday’s meeting.
“I’m delighted to see it’s improved in some neighborhoods,” Mayor Peggy Dunn said. “Unfortunately it’s still not improved in my neighborhood. I personally waited two weeks for yard waste pickup.”