CLAY COUNTY – County residents and commissioners continue to grow more and more unhappy with the services of Waste Management, the company responsible for picking up trash, yard waste and recycling …
CLAY COUNTY – County residents and commissioners continue to grow more and more unhappy with the services of Waste Management, the company responsible for picking up trash, yard waste and recycling in unincorporated areas.
The company has said for months the COVID-19 pandemic is largely responsible for a lack of workers. The coronavirus complicated things just as it did for hundreds of other industries in the world, but a lack of people continues to plague the trash service.
“This is a nationwide issue and problem that we’re constantly trying to fix,” county manager Howard Wanamaker said during Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s all hands-on deck. We were three weeks behind in yard waste pick up whereas today, we’re about a week behind. It’s just a constant struggle and it’s dynamic to try and fix. We have the trucks. We just don’t have the people.”
Wanamaker said wages for some trash-related positions have risen from $10.50 an hour in December to roughly $15 an hour now, in an attempt to attract new employees. They’re down drivers, too. A Commercial Driver’s License is required to drive a garbage truck and people with CDLs aren’t easy to come by right now, according to Wanamaker.
Wanamaker is correct. American Airlines announced this week that it would continue to cancel about 80 flights each day and expects to at least through July due to a staffing shortage. This shortage in employees can be seen in many other industries such as food service, retail and more.
Wanamaker told the BCC garbage is the No. 1 priority when it comes to what garbage trucks pick up each day. Recycling is No. 2 and yard waste is third. Unsurprisingly, yard waste currently seems to be being the most for Waste Management.
One resident told the BCC during the June 22 meeting he has three weeks of yard waste sitting on their curb. Commissioner Betsy Condon expressed her frustration after learning that, citing the fact that yard waste sitting on a curb can potentially kill the grass underneath or blow over into the streets during a storm.
“You tell us you’re four days behind, but we frequently hear from residents that it’s much longer...like three weeks,” Condon told Environmental Services Director Charlie Latham. “I don’t understand how a resident has gone three weeks leaving it out on their curb. How does that happen? We hear that things are getting better...but I think that we’ve gone backwards.
“It’s only grown to be worse since May in terms of yard waste. It’s very frustrating and I understand you all don’t have answers...but it’s tiring.”
Condon questioned whether Waste Management was still receiving taxpayer dollars despite their work, or lack thereof rather, and Wanamaker said the county is keeping track of every expense taken under the county’s wing. Wanamaker rented garage trucks from the City of Green Cove Springs and hit the streets recently to pick up trash to help Waste Management catch up, and he said those expenses would be sent to WM. The county manager said there is a proposal to have some money refunded to taxpayers, but he said it’s important for people to understand that it wouldn’t be much.
“We’re not talking about thousands of dollars, or hundreds or even 10s,” Wanamaker said. “It’s about $1.50 per month should you happen to miss four recycling pickups.”
Latham said the current garbage dilemma has been the biggest challenge he’s faced in his job. Wanamaker said one possible solution would be to suspend recycling again for about three months, which would give Waste Management time to catch up on yard waste and regular garbage. He said if that were to occur, residents would still have a place they could bring their recycling materials.
Another option is to reduce the amount of recycling pickups that happen each month, such as shifting to a recycle pickup once a month.
BCC chair Mike Cella said Waste Management is coming to the county’s chambers with a full presentation and options on July 13. He said if the BCC doesn’t like what they see, they can hold a workshop immediately after the presentation to determine how the county reacts.