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Action steps proposed by Councilman Jehl to address ongoing trash collection issues

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 12:49 PM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) - Councilmen Russ Jehl and Tom Didier took Mayor Tom Henry’s administration to task at a news conference Friday to address ongoing trash collection issues from Red River Waste Solutions. They say there is a “crisis in confidence” having to do with distrust city trash customers feel about the service they are getting.

Fort Wayne’s NBC has reported extensively on the continued collection problems that seem to have increased in the past couple of weeks. Tuesday, Jehl said he is tired of the city making excuses for Red River after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, blaming the COVID-19 pandemic for the company’s financial downturn.

“The City Administration has requested patience from the Ratepayers, implying that nothing more can be done to improve the service issues because of Red River’s bankruptcy protections,” a release sent by Jehl says. “However, when asking for understanding from Ratepayers, it is imperative that elected officials be doing everything within their power to lead.”

Jehl proposed the following four action steps, requesting that the City Administration discuss them at its Jan. 18 briefing to Council:

  • Level with the Public - More than a month has passed since the Administration has given a substantive update on the garbage service issue. The public needs hope that cannot come from a press release. Does the Administration intend to make a switch in its service provider?
  • Immediately hire an emergency provider - The City Administration should activate the emergency services clause in the garbage services contract and utilize a 3rd party provider to reduce the misses and be retained indefinitely. Complacently allowing garbage to pile up around town is simply not necessary.
  • Proactively reach out to Red River’s workers to stay - With Red River’s bankruptcy and public relations issues, they will almost certainly continue to lose drivers. The Solid Waste Department should proactively lead in recruiting and retaining the current Red River drivers, appreciating their experience and value. The drivers alone will get the Ratepayer through this present emergency and a future transition.
  • Create a real miss list - Solid Waste should create an effective “miss list” plan to identify and collect missed areas, that extends beyond overwhelming 311 with calls. Solid Waste, not Red River, is ultimately responsible for ensuring miss cycles and miss patterns do not occur.

Jehl is adamant that the city should hire an emergency third party provider to collect the trash of customers who’ve been missed for seven straight days. He says Red River would have to pick up the expense under such an arrangement.

“We simply withhold the amount of money that we would normally pay to Red River and give it to the service provider, that’s how it works, it doesn’t cost us a dime if we follow the contract,” Jehl said.

Mayor Henry’s administration insists it has explored hiring a backup hauler, but that those other companies are under the gun too.

“It’s not just something where you can say, go hire an emergency provider. Because, if we were to do that, we would need to get around 30 trucks that would be able to provide an emergency service such as that, the haulers that we have talked to, that’s just not feasible at this time because of the challenges they’re having,” said City of Fort Wayne spokesperson John Perlich.

The Administration is scheduled to present a Red River update to Council at the Jan. 18 City Council meeting starting at 5:30 p.m. at Citizens Square, Room 035. It will include an update on Red River’s bankruptcy situation. Perlich says a court status conference Thursday produced progress towards resolution. He says there is nothing to formally announce right now. The Tuesday council meeting will also be streamed on CityTV and Facebook. Tune in tonight at 5 and 6 for a full report on the matter.

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