BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Metro Council members grilled leaders with Republic Services Wednesday, May 22 over mounting issues with trash collection across the city-parish.
Council members did not hold back during their line of questioning as they dumped the avalanche of complaints on those tasked with tackling waste in Baton Rouge.
“You have to have frequent offenders as far as your drivers if half of this is true,” said Councilman Matt Watson.
“I’m not trying to beat up on Republic, but something is apparently wrong,” Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis added.
A report released mid-May reveals more than 20,000 complaints against the service have flooded into the city-parish 311 call center in the last two years, but even those numbers some say do not quite paint a realistic picture of the problem.
“That number is pretty staggering just as it is, but one of the concerns that I have is it’s actually probably arbitrarily low,” said Councilman Dwight Hudson.
Council members say they have been swamped with calls and emails over spotty service through Republic and they came loaded with questions the folks they represent demand to know.
“If I’m paying you to provide a service and you don’t provide it, I want my money back,” said Collins-Lewis. “That’s what people are asking.”
“My people want to hear have you terminated anyone because they let you and the paying public down,” Watson added.
Sharon Mann, general manager for Republic Services, says they have made a number of terminations as a result of the ongoing issues.
“Yes, we have,” said Mann. “From January, it would be a guess, but it’s been several and I would save over ten.”
Leaders at Republic say one of the main issues they face is a shortage of drivers. They also blame delays on older trucks in their fleet and even the huge amount of routes they are expected to juggle each day.
“We service 780,000 drive-bys per week and 3.3 million per month,” said Mann.
While they are working to address the issues, leaders with Republic also say better education about what can be put in the garbage and new technology to track their drivers could help out.
“We still have experiences where people are disappointed in the level of service that they are receiving and it is our intent to improve and fix that,” said Kelvin Hill, assistant chief administrative officer with the city-parish.
They hope the changes will ease some of the public backlash over the services. Republic has one of the largest contracts through the city-parish at $34 million.