One man’s trash may be another man’s treasure but no one is treasuring the trash that’s been left uncollected in front of homes for weeks at a time in Guilford County.
Loud and constant complaints about Republic Services’ unreliable trash and recycling pickup have made their way to Guilford County staff and commissioners who are taking action to see that the matter is addressed.
Residents who contract with Republic Services to remove trash complain that the company has been missing scheduled pickups. They say it’s an ongoing issue that’s led to rodents and other animals getting into trash, debris being blown along the roads and other problems that stem from trash at homes piling up for weeks uncollected.
Republic Services contracts with individual residents in Guilford County to provide trash collection. The company gets the right to provide that service through a franchise agreement with the county, which is why the complaints are coming to Guilford County officials.
County planning and environmental officials have met with Republic to find ways to address the situation and the company’s administrators promise they are making major changes to address the problems.
Guilford County Commissioner Alan Perdue said the service has been unsatisfactory and the level of complaints the county is hearing is totally unacceptable.
“They’re having some significant issues with pickup, delays in pickup or a lack of pickup,” Perdue said.
For instance, he said he understands why, during a recent snowstorm, the company stopped service, but he doesn’t understand why those trash pickups weren’t done after the roads cleared up.
“I know of no other service that just totally forgets what they are supposed to do that week,” he said.
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Alan Branson is another commissioner who’s been fielding complaints from angry residents. Branson said it’s hard to know what to tell someone when even repeat complaint calls to the company and the county don’t seem to do any good. He said it makes the customers feel like their concerns are “falling on deaf ears.”
“They’re not picking up in a timely fashion,” Branson said of Republic. “I’ve been getting complaints for the last six to eight months. It’s people saying the service skipped a week and that it’s running late.”
Branson said Republic has stated that the problems stem from equipment failure and employee shortages. The company also claims that an expanded customer base has stretched its workforce too thin. Branson said that company officials promise that changes are being made and service will get better very soon.
“I received an email that Republic was going to hire new staff and buy new equipment,” he said, but he added that this has been an “ongoing problem.”
The media office of Republic Services didn’t return a phone message left by the Rhino Times. A call to a Republic Services number listed on the internet went to call center in Charlotte, where the woman who answered said she did not know how to route the call to the administrative offices. Three emails (sent from two different addresses) to an email address provided in the letter that Republic sent to the county came back as undeliverable.
Republic provided a copy of a letter of explanation to the county, one that could be given to unhappy customers who complained to the county. A division manager for Republic wrote in an email to the county that it was “a letter that can be distributed as you see fit.”
That letter, signed by Dennis Moriarty, general manager of Republic Services, states, “Dear Valued Winston-Salem/Greensboro Customer, As you may be aware, in some of our local service areas, our recycling and waste collections have not been what we would like or expect them to be. That is largely the result of the recent rapid and unexpected volume growth that has transpired in the local area, which, long-term, is good for both Republic Services and for the local communities we are privileged to serve.”
In the letter, Moriarty went on to say that the company is “undertaking a number of strategic strides to remedy this situation as quickly as possible.”
Those fixes include rerouting collection routes, increasing the number of routes, hiring additional drivers and investing in a larger and more dependable fleet.
The letter states, “We sincerely apologize for the current service levels. We are taking steps to address the situation and are fully committed to improving this as quickly as possible.”
An email sent from Republic Services to Guilford County Planning and Development Director Leslie Bell said that the new routes and other aspects of the plan would go into effect on Monday, Feb. 5. That email also said route changes will affect approximately 24,000 customers and it advised county officials that there may be some problems at the start of implementation of the new system.
“There will be a learning curve for our drivers during the first two to three weeks,” it states, adding that the company will have supervisors on routes “monitoring the implementation and checking behind drivers with hopes of a smooth and successful implementation.”
Branson said he hopes the new plan works because he and fellow commissioners want to see the county’s customers satisfied and see an end to the complaints.
“Hopefully, they will take care of it,” Branson said. “I’m hoping we’re on the rebound and the plus side.”
Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne stated in an email that the franchise license that allows Republic Services to operate in the county is non-exclusive. That is, the agreement doesn’t prevent another company from coming in to provide similar services. Payne stated that Republic could not operate in Guilford County without that license.