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City, Waste Pro working to resolve trash collection issues in Cape Coral

June 29, 2018
Lehigh Acres Citizen

Issues with Cape Coral's trash removal service Waste Pro have come to a head.

Complains from residents across the city calling for the company to clean up its act, as well as the streets, have made their way to Cape officials and were discussed in the most recent City Council meeting earlier in June.

These grievances claim trash has been left along Cape Coral streets, bulk items have been left out on curbsides for days and, in some instances, trash and recyclables in select areas were not collected at all.

"We have discussed our concerns over the declining service levels with Waste Pro reps," said city spokesperson Connie Barron in an emailed statement.

Currently, the city is engaged in a five-year contract that expires in 2020 with the contract set to pick up automatically for another five years when the existing one ends.

If the city finds that Waste Pro is not responsive to complaints found to be valid, a breach in contract may be on the table, however the city must provide an adequate time table for Waste Pro to come into compliance.

"Waste Pro has indicated they intend to add more vehicles to step up their collections and reduce missed pickups," Barron said. "Certainly, if we do not see some improvements in the service delivery, the City will consider all options available."

One of those options would be to access fines due to poor performance, a stipulation laid out in the city's contract with Waste Pro. Another would be to give the company a 12-month notice that the city wishes to sever ties all together.

City Councilmember Jennifer Nelson is spearheading the efforts to resolve this matter due, in part, to her experience in the field prior to her District 4 chair.

She recently went on a ride-along with Waste Pro, trying to better understand what issues they are facing in hopes to find a remedial solution.

"Turnover is a big issue for them," Nelson said. "There are more jobs available at Waste Pro than employees to fill them."

The economic stability at the moment has left positions vacant - and Waste Pro seems to be feeling the affects.

Though a shortage in staffing could be the crux of the issue, Nelson is clear that a solution must be found.

"If they can't meet the needs of our growing city, we'll have to look to another vendor who can," she stated.

As for the "grace-period" Waste Pro has to straighten things out, "There is no clear time frame laid out in the contract," Nelson said.

No warning or timetable has been given to Waste Pro from the city.

Nelson said she is not looking to bash the company, but to be professional, to look at the contract and see where the short comings are - along with how the city can lend a hand as well.

The city's Public Works department is currently working on a data report to present during a workshop meeting to all council members, most likely in August.

"This will help us figure out what the causes are, what the complaints have been and how often we're seeing them," said Nelson.

The report will also analyze and measure the level of service over the 10 years Waste Pro has been in Cape Coral.

Nelson is also looking into the legal ramifications of breaking the contract that is set to renew in 2020.

"I don't want to see issues continue without trying to do something," she said.

As for Waste Pro, besides shortage of staff, their biggest issue is the challenges of bulk waste pick up.

"Our issue is bulk waste that is called non compliant," said Ron Pecora, senior vice president of Waste Pro in an email. "(It) Means it requires special pickup at extra cost. Like when renters move and leave large quantities. This also slows regular pickups."

There is no language in the contract that has parameters for what "bulk pick-up" is. It could be a couch, or a fridge, or the whole contents of a house spilled onto the front lawn.

Nelson also noted that in recent weeks, she has fielded calls from Realtors about evictions and foreclosures which leave front lawns riddled with trash.

Pecora also confirmed additions to their fleet in Cape Coral to help with the bulk removal, "bottom line without excuses is we currently run three bulk trucks which typically is what this type of service calls for and next week will have two more trucks from our other offices."



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