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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, August 20, 2019 10:40 pm

Council tables trash pickup resolution

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne City Council decided tonight to hold for two weeks a non-binding resolution aimed at solving the city's trash collection woes.

The proposal, sponsored by Councilmen Jason Arp, R-4th, and Paul Ensley, R-1st, would encourage the city to fully fine Red River Waste Solutions for missed collections, and would recommend the City Council not approve another long-term contract with a citywide hauler. If that happens, city residents would be required to seek trash and recycling services individually or through their neighborhood association. 

The proposal also sets forth a plan to bridge the gap in case Red River abandons the seven-year contract. 

"Currently, we are saddled with a one-size-fits-all program that when it fails, it fails catastrophically for everyone in the city," Arp said.

Under the proposal, Arp said, individuals and neighborhoods could choose who they contract with, the level of service they receive, and price and contract terms. Customers would also have "direct recourse if their expectations are not met," Arp said. 

Arp also said he's heard from a number of constituents asking why they can't return to the way trash was handled before Aboite Township was annexed into the city of Fort Wayne.

"They wouldn't have to go to their councilman, the mayor's office, or 311 to try to get this fixed, especially when we're in a long-term seven-year contract in which there's really no way for us on an individual basis to address these problems," he said.

A market-based approach would provide "a combination of lower prices and higher customer satisfaction," Arp added.

For those who cannot afford or don't want to pursue their own collection contract, Arp said the county's health code provides a way to cite those who violate the trash collection requirement.

Texas-based Red River Waste Solutions took over the city's trash collection contract on Jan. 1, 2018 and residents immediately began to experience issues with their collections. The contractor has missed thousands of garbage and recycling collections since taking over the contract. 

"We've given them plenty of time to sort through whatever the issues are and this is my attempt to do something to solve the problem," Arp said Tuesday.

Red River missed 3,495 garbage collections from January to March this year. Statistics from April, May, June and July have not yet been released on the city's publicly available dashboard. 

Ensley added it's clear to him that Red River "does not care about the customers, they do not care about the individual people."

"They don't care if they knock your garbage can over or leave it out in the middle of the street or if they skip a whole cul de sac or a whole neighborhood. They just don't care," Ensley said.

Although members expressed support in levying the full force of fines against Red River, several were wary of abandoning citywide trash collection altogether. Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, said he was glad Arp and Ensley were thinking outside the box when attempting to find a solution, but was unsure that this proposal was the proper solution.

"I have to have more knowledge and understanding to feel comfortable with what you're trying to do," Didier said. "I understand why you want to do it. You're frustrated with what's going on in your district."

Didier noted that he's had similar problems in his district, particularly along Dupont Road and the northern end of the 3rd District. However, Didier also pointed out that some neighborhood associations may not have the structure necessary to fund trash collection for their entire development.

"That's why we did the one-size-fits-all," he said. "Maybe there's a better way to tweak the one-size-fits-all (contract) versus what you want to do," Didier said. 

Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, said he could support the resolution if it were tailored to address the fining of Red River for missed collections. 

"I think the resolution to a degree could make sense if we could narrow it to my support, being enforcing of the current fees and fines that we've talked about at this table until the cows come home." Hines said. 

Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, said his district is very densely populated. He is concerned that some of his constituents may be "hard-pressed to follow along" with the proposal.

"I can see some chaos resulting," he said. "What works out in more rural spread out Allen County or even Aboite Township may not work in some of the neighborhoods that I represent in the 5th District."

Ensley noted that since the resolution is non-binding and because the contract won't expire until 2025, neither City Council nor the city administration is being forced to do anything. Additionally, Ensley said no customers will have the rug pulled out from under them under this proposal. 

"Presuming they stay in business, there will be two elections between now and then. Some of us may no longer be on this council," he said. "Certainly this is a non-binding resolution, but I think that this does send a message that city council is willing to try anything and everything to get the garbage picked up for the citizens of Fort Wayne."

dgong@jg.net