The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, August 07, 2018 7:30 pm

Councilman says trash hauler in breach of contract

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

A Fort Wayne city councilman plans to introduce a resolution to declare the city's garbage collection agency in breach of contract in response to allegations of numerous missed pickups. 

"Something is rotten in the city of Fort Wayne," Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, said during tonight's council meeting. "And that is our garbage contractor, Red River. Presently, they collect our fees, but not our garbage." 

Jehl said that constitutes a substantial breach of contract that has been happening for months without any progress. Because of that, Jehl said he plans to submit a resolution "at the earliest it can be reviewed by our attorney" to declare that Red River has substantially breached its $5 million contract with the city of Fort Wayne.

A non-binding resolution declaring a substantial breach of contract, Jehl said, would "empower" Mayor Tom Henry's administration "to do anything and everything to restore the reliable and affordable service of garbage collection."  

Texas-based Red River took over garbage collection duties on Jan. 1 after it outbid the city's longtime garbage collection agency Republic Services. Republic, formerly known as National Serv-All, had held the contract for the previous 20 years. Almost immediately, residents experienced trouble with missed collections. In January, the company blamed harsh winter weather and increased amounts of trash generated from the Christmas and New Years holidays.

In June, the company was fined $65,000 for misses that occurred in April and May. Under the terms of the contract, Red River is only allowed to miss 1 in every 1,000 households each week. Otherwise, the company is fined a $100 penalty for each missed household. If the company doesn't fix the mistake by 5 p.m. the next day, it could be fined an additional $50 for each miss. 

Jehl said he's received an "unbelievable" number of calls complaining about missed collections. 

"I think there was a little bit of an improvement last month and then last week was an absolute disaster," Jehl said, noting that he thinks there are about 1,600 garbage collection complaints per month citywide. 

"I can tell you that huge numbers of neighborhoods in my district were missed last week," Jehl said. "In fact, one of them was a pickup for (last) Tuesday. I went by last night and it still wasn't picked up. It was an entire week."

At a June 19 hearing, City Council members expressed their dissatisfaction to Red River representatives and requested data so elected officials can track the company's performance. On Tuesday, Crawford said council had received two reports, but had yet to receive a third. Those figures were due to council by Tuesday, Crawford said, noting that he expects the data does not show improvement. 

"I don't think they're going to be good. They missed all of Arlington and they missed my house two weeks ago," Crawford said. "They missed like whole swaths of the city, not just a can here or there."

Red River officials were not present during Tuesday's council meeting. In June, however, they promised council improvement would be rapid.

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