The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 06, 2019 1:00 am

City nixes part-time trackers for trash

Council members asked for liaisons

DAVE GONG | For The Journal Gazette

Officials with Fort Wayne Public Works have rebuffed a request from five Fort Wayne city councilmen to provide a temporary part-time employee to act as a liaison with the city's Solid Waste Department. 

The request, authored by Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, and signed by Councilmen Paul Ensley, R-1st; Jason Arp, R-4th; Glynn Hines, D-6th; and John Crawford, R-at large, asked that the city spend roughly $3,000 a month on a temporary employee to act as an intermediary between solid waste staff, 311 and the City Council office to help track performance.

The city's response, dated Monday, says 311 is still the most effective way to report missed trash and recycling collections. 

“We respectfully request you direct all your constituents to report service issues by calling 311, or using the web portal or the mobile app,” the letter signed by Solid Waste manager Matt Gratz and Public Works Director Shan Gunawardena states.

The employee, who would be paid out of fines collected from Red River Waste Solutions, would also follow up each day on calls council members have received regarding trash collection. 

Red River took over the seven-year trash and recycling collection contract in January 2018 and was fined more than $1 million for missed collections last year. City officials say new routes – which divided the city by quadrant – have helped reduce the number of missed collection complaints received by the 311 call center. 

Monday's letter states that route changes implemented in November have resulted in “an almost 75 percent reduction in calls through our 311 call center between October 2018 and February 2019.” The letter adds that the contract with Red River is set up to automatically report complaints to the company's dispatch every weekday at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. 

Circumventing the process, the letter states, “makes it harder for us to follow through and schedule service of missed pick-ups, particularly as it is our practice to respond to requests from council members as a priority over all other requests.” 

“For these reasons, we do not believe it would be productive to duplicate current processes and have a solid waste funded employee working as an intermediary for the council office to take calls outside of or in addition to the parameters established above,” the letter states. 

Jehl said Tuesday he remains dissatisfied.

“As ratepayers continue to be missed and they call 311, what percentage of the time are they picked up within 24 hours of that call?” Jehl asked. “Until that is quantified and quantified at a rate that is acceptable, then we either need the advocate or we need the garbage to get picked up.”

Jehl added he “respectfully disagrees with the administration” and has asked the City Council attorney to look into possible legislative solutions to the problem. 

“Legislative options are not necessary, letters are not necessary, responses to those letters are not necessary as long as the garbage gets picked up,” he said. “If the garbage isn't picked up, then we need an advocate to get it picked up.”

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