BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - In a press conference held Wednesday, June 19, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said she’s “not pleased” with Republic Services, a trash pickup service provider. This comes after weeks of complaints about delays in trash pickup, some for as long as 120 days, for several areas of East Baton Rouge Parish.
Mayor Broome and a manager for Republic Services outlined an improvement plan to be implemented immediately.
Click here to read the city-parish’s full contract with Republic.
Watch the FULL press conference below:
“We have not lived up to our own high standards and the expectations of the city and the parish leaders,” Karla Swacker, municipal manager for Republic Services said. “That’s troubling to us. We are better than that as a partner for the city and we can be.”
The plan first includes hiring an outside subcontractor uniquely suited to pick up large piles of debris. Swacker says they’ve already worked in several parts of the city, collecting 25 tons of material per day.
“They’re producing very good results,” Swacker said. “They’ve been a huge help.”
An employee for Republic Services claimed that the company has not addressed issues that could help drivers complete their routes, like truck maintenance and broken fuel pumps. A spokesperson for Republic Services says those claims are “simply not true.”
Swacker cited traffic problems, driver shortages, and “summertime wear and tear on trucks” as some of the problems in getting trash picked up in a timely manner.
Swacker says the company plans to hire a new pool of drivers, supervisors, and mechanics to fill the current vacancies. Republic Services plans to be at “full employment,” which Swacker says consists of about 90 drivers, including subcontractors.
Another highlight of the improvement plan will be to increase the communication between Republic Services and 311, the city’s service request provider.
“We’ve worked closely with 311 in streamlining the process so information gets into the computer system quickly and a resident can get an update on service requests on a more timely basis than in the past,” Swacker said.
The company also plans to improve public education about what can and can’t be picked up from the roadside. Swacker says there’s an issue with compliant and non-compliant material, which makes it hard for Republic Service’s trucks to pick up.
Kelvin Hill, the city’s assistant CAO, over all city-parish public works departments, says they’re putting more best practices into place with weekly reviews of “key performance indicators” to make sure there are no gaps between what the plan is promising and what is being delivered to the public.
While they focus on repairing their relationship with customers, leaders with Republic say customers need to be re-educated on what can be placed at the curb and what truly falls on their business. They believe getting everyone on the same page could work wonders for improving the service.
“Everyone has to come to the table,” said Swacker.
The clock is ticking for them to get it right though. Mayor Broome says the complaints have gotten out of hand and she is giving them 30 days to deliver.
"We're going to evaluate the plan that they've set forth here to see if it is in fact working," said Broome.
So far, the company has not faced any consequences for the mounting complaints, but if they do not live up to this latest promise, the mayor can take action. The 9News Investigators were able to obtain the contract between the city-parish and Republic Services, which reveals the company could be hit with harsh penalties for any group of routes they miss. In certain cases, they city-parish could slap Republic with a $1,000 fine for the first offense and $2,500 for the second offense. For any missed route beyond the second offense, Republic could have to hand over $5,000 in fines.
According to the contract, WAFB’s Scottie Hunter found out the city-parish has the power to cut ties with the company altogether as long as they provide Republic a 10-day notice.
Republic says while they work to rebuild their reputation, there’s also something residents may have been doing to contribute to the buildup. They say there are certain restrictions for curbside trash, saying some items just cannot be picked up.
"A lot of people think they can just put anything at the curb any way they want and that's not how the program's designed and nor is that really in the city's best interest to continue to pick up materials that should be paid for by other contractors or for others reasons,” said Swacker.
Broome says it’s beneficial to both the people and the city-parish if Republic Services “gets it right so we can move forward." She says there will be a four-week evaluation period before they will provide another update to the public.