Deluged with complaints of Northland garbage ripening in the July heat, City Manager Troy Schulte said Tuesday that the city will have to seriously consider dumping its $11 million-a-year trash collection contractor and start doing the job on its own.
The city’s contract with the Houston-based WCA (Waste Corporation of America) to collect trash and recycling north of the Missouri River and south of 63rd Street is up for renewal in 2020.
But the city hasn’t been getting its money’s worth, Schulte said, and could be better off taking the entire function in-house. Municipal crews handle collection from the Missouri River to 63rd St.
“It might be the way we go long term,” Schulte said. “It will be at some point cheaper for us to step back into the business.”
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Schulte made the comments at a meeting with the Northland’s four City Council members, who are frustrated that service for the area’s 55,000 households has deteriorated in recent weeks. The city has registered more than 5,000 complaints in the last two months.
“Trash pickup in the Northland has been abysmal,” said Councilman Dan Fowler. “It’s a health hazard. It’s a code violation. It’s a detriment to kids. We’ve got to take action now.”
He was joined by Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner and Councilwomen Heather Hall and Teresa Loar.
Schulte and Michael Shaw, the city’s chief of solid waste management, said extra trucks and staff have been added to Northland routes.
“More trucks, more hands on bags, feet on the ground. Get the trash picked up. That’s the bottom line,” said Shaw, who pitched in himself on a recent weekend to restore what he called “the social promise” of timely garbage collection.
The city has had periodic difficulty in getting acceptable performance out of WCA. The company subsidiary responsible for collection south of 63rd Street, Town & Country Disposal, has also drawn criticism.
Shaw said recent hot weather, staffing issues and the summer “trash amnesty” program that allows residents to put out extra bags at no cost, all combined to throw Northland collections behind. He said service should be caught up soon.
WCA subcontracts its Northland territory to a local firm, Jim’s Disposal Service. Executives of both companies were on hand Tuesday, but were not invited to speak.
After the meeting, Jim’s Disposal president Chuck Byrd said one of the issues was finding workers willing to take on a messy, exhausting and occasionally dangerous job.
“Nobody wants to work, everybody wants a paycheck,” Byrd said.
He added that continued growth in the Northland means 65 to 70 new homes coming on line each month, creating issues for drivers.
“The Northland is very complicated as far as navigating is concerned,” he said. “There’s a lot of new streets and these guys are trying to learn them and navigate their way through them.”
Fowler said the Northland council members would convene another meeting in 30 day to assess progress.