Scott Waste Blames Problems On Labor Shortages, Supply Chain Issues, Offers Several Apologies at Fiscal Court
Darren Doyle, story and photo:
Waste Connections (formerly known as Scott Waste) representatives Pete Reckard and Ty Bowman attended today's Edmonson County Fiscal Court meeting to address the many complaints received by the fiscal court over the past year; specifically since Christmas. Reckard apologized several times to the court as a whole and to individuals in the crowd for their specific complaints.
A host of county residents have been upset with poor service with little-to-no communication from the trash collection company. Judge Executive Wil Cannon presented a summary of complaints to the two reps and asked them to provide information as to why the company is having trouble providing their service in Edmonson County.
The county entered into an agreement with Scott Waste, now known as Waste Connections, in 2008 when Edmonson County began participating in the Kentucky Waste Management Program. This program recommends the county to have one trash pickup service countywide in order to track the amount of trash being picked up. Cannon said today, and has said in the past, having more than one trash company will hinder the process of tracking that information.
As a participant in the program, the county receives grant money that pays for the litter abatement program and a tire amnesty program.
"The complaints continue to come in," Cannon said to Reckard. "They're the same complaints, but wide spread. They may vary from 'they missed my trash today, again, or they missed it the last two days, they miss it every week, they come a day late every week, or two days late every week, they've missed my trash for three weeks, or four weeks, or we called and somebody has destroyed our trash can, or stolen our trash can, and they keep telling us they're going to bring one but we haven't seen it for two months and we still get a bill...,' and there's probably some other complaints out there."
The Edmonson Voice receives multiple requests throughout the year to write some sort of article on the service provided by Waste Connections. We received one Thursday of last week. The majority of the complaints we receive are from those who feel like they are being shorted by paying for a weekly trash pickup but do not receive the service in a consistent manner.
Judge Cannon also noted that the county ordinance with Waste Connections also requires a closed-top truck, but Cannon said the company has had an open-top truck in some parts of the county that he said loses some trash out the top of it when it's in motion. Mr. Reckard said that was a truck that normally doesn't run in the county, but it was one trying to help them get caught up.
One man in the audience today, who lives on Caneyville Road in Edmonson County, said he recently realized he has been categorized as a Grayson County resident, paying Grayson County rates to Scott Waste, which is a higher rate than Edmonson. He said he's currently paying around $52/month instead of the county standard $69 per quarter, or $23 per month.
"If you've been a customer since we turned it over, since we purchased C&K (Sanitation), they had you listed as that," said Pete Reckard. "If somebody doesn't bring it to our attention, we're not going to know whether it was Grayson or Edmonson. We do encounter that every so often, a lot of times it would be the opposite direction, where Grayson County is getting an Edmonson (rate) based on what street they are and where it crosses over. But we'll definitely take care of it and move forward."
Another resident, Tommy Bolton, said his trash hasn't been picked up half the time since Christmas and asked for a specific phone number he could call where someone "will actually answer the phone." Reckard responded by handing him a business card with his number on it and ensured him he would be the one to answer the phone or return a call made to that number.
Judge Cannon said the issue here is not having trash picked up a day or two late, here and there. He said again they were widespread complaints and people were tired of it. Reckard responded.
"One, I wish I could tell you exactly what cause, what issue, and things like that is," he said. "But since Christmas. Christmas is always a tough week because of the extra trash and things like that. That week after Christmas, we were out running on January 1st or whatever it was, and the semi-tornado that came through, we pulled our trucks off thinking, 'we're going to get right back to it and we'll get it all taken care of' and we ended up with two snowstorms right in a row. That was the beginning of it. But since then, it has become an issue of we have two very good employees that run the routes. One of those employees is having medical issues, then his wife is having medical issues, so it's like he was out for a day and things like that. Well, the other end of it is, we're in a deep shortage of employees. CDL employees have been very tough. When one of them is out, we still have 40 other routes we gotta cover, so it was tough. And I know that's not an excuse for you all. It doesn't correct what we went through, and there was a few times where we didn't realize that somebody was getting missed two weeks in a row, or three weeks in a row until that third week and things like that, so we were doing things like that to get caught up and take care of the situation. So we're moving in a direction where we're starting to finally see some candidates coming."
Reckard continued to explain their need for help riders on the back of the trucks as well. He also said that they are experiencing issues on all their contracts, not just in Edmonson County. He said last Friday's routes were being picked up on Sunday. He said "we are working to solve issues up in Edmonson County."
Cannon said he understood that finding help was currently difficult; however, he also noted he recently followed a Scott Waste truck while it was picking up trash. Three out of four cans he emptied were thrown down on their sides and were not placed upright.
"I'm pretty sure people don't like that, we're going to get a call on that (too) if it's not corrected. Little things like that," Cannon said.
Reckard said he'd have a conversation with that employee about the incident.
The conversation went on for over 45 minutes, much of it the same types of complaints and Reckard's responses were similar to his first apologies. Judge Cannon also noted that Waste Connections also donates each year to the Freedom Fest, which provides a free fireworks show each summer, and provides the dumpster services for the annual countywide cleanup. Waste Connections also pays a franchise tax back to the county each year, which is around $50,000 a year.
The last comment from a resident was a question asked to Mr. Reckard, which was, who should pick up the mess when a can sits for several days past the pickup date without being emptied? The resident said full cans sometimes blow over and trash is then blown around or animals tear it apart. He said someone has to pick it up, which is usually the resident, and it's not fair.
"Our guys try to do the best they can," said Reckard. "And I know it's not a fair statement, but if they had to do that at every stop, we would never be able to get through it and we'd just be further behind. I know that's not the right answer."
The resident replied, "That's certainly not the right answer."
Reckard asked for the man's address so he could help him. The man also said while it hadn't happened to him, personally, it happens to his neighbors.
Cannon asked Reckard to do a better job of communication to their customers, to let them know when delays are expected. Reckard said Waste Connections has a mobile app that can help keep customers updated on pickup schedules, called the Waste Connect App. He said they can also send out alerts.
Cannon said many elderly people don't have computers or smart phones so that wouldn't really help everyone. He also noted that the contract was coming up for renewal in July and more discussion would continue until then. Reckard noted that the contract also protects Edmonson County customers by capping Waste Connections' price increases at 3% per year, which he said was much less than the inflation rate currently being seen by the consumer.