St. Charles Parish Council members say complaints about debris pickup have fallen off after new laws were introduced that defined exactly what the parish’s garbage contractor must pick up from yards around the parish.
The issue between the parish and solid waste provider Progressive Waste Solutions came to light last year as property owners began trimming trees and cleaning up their property lines in anticipation of last year’s hurricane season. In past years, trash service providers would pick up large debris from tree cutting, but Progressive was no longer providing that service. That led to several angry calls from parish residents to St. Charles Parish officials.
Councilwoman Wendy Benedetto said residents were at first confused about why their piles of debris were not being picked up and then began notifying her about the lack of service.
“The residents are used to putting something out and it getting picked up, not having to wait two or three weeks and call it in,” she said. “You put it out and then you wait for it to get picked up and nobody picks it up and then you call it in and they say, ‘oh it will take seven to 14 days.’ Well that can be a total of four weeks.”
Benedetto said the piles of debris became a large problem for St. Charles Parish residents.
“It’s killing your grass and it’s a nuisance. It’s an eyesore,” she said.
After the problem became more apparent and widespread, the parish’s Public Works Department stepped in to help. Buddy Boe, St. Charles Parish chief administrative officer, said in June 2013 the parish administration made the decision to send the Public Works department to pick up some of the debris piles that Progressive refused to pick up.
“What we agreed to do was help supplement the debris pickups during the height of the season, which was the peak of the summer,” he said.
On Aug. 15 the parish government began charging Progressive for the supplemental service on debris piles they felt Progressive should have been picking up, but did not.
While Boe did not say Progressive breached the trash contract, he did say they did not provide the service the parish thought they should be providing and there was a dispute about the language within the contract.
“The reason we picked up a pile was technically their failing to pick up what their contract (said they) should have picked up,” he said.
The money the parish spent to pick up the debris was withheld from Progressive’s bill.
Despite the dispute between Progressive and the parish on who should be responsible for how much debris to pick up, Boe said there were clearly some problems with residents who expected large debris to be picked up from their home as part of the regular trash service.
“At some point there are debris piles that are simply too large for us to ask our solid waste contractor to pick up. There might be an entire oak tree’s worth of debris and several dump truck loads that a commercial tree cutting vendor was paid to cut down in most cases and just leaves it for the parish or solid waste contractor to pick up,” he said.
To more closely define how much debris Progressive was responsible for picking up, the St. Charles Parish Council passed a law in September disallowing the pickup of debris that was created by the work of a commercial contractor. In addition, just this week they introduced an additional ordinance limiting the size of debris piles to ten cubic feet and the circumference of any one piece of debris to three feet and the length to six feet.
Boe said he thinks the changes, if all are enacted, will go a long way towards preparing the parish for this year’s tree cutting season. He added that working with Progressive on further defining their responsibilities will end with a better understanding for everyone.
The parish government intends on embarking on a marketing campaign to let residents know what changes have been made and what they should no longer expect Progressive to pick up from their homes.
However, the parish has indicated if a resolution cannot be worked out and Progressive refuses to pick up debris piles defined by the new ordinances, there is always the possibility for a civil lawsuit.
“Hopefully we can negotiate a resolution moving forward,” Boe said.
Councilwoman Julia Fisher-Perrier said she will certainly take into consideration the problems they have experienced with Progressive when the contract renewal comes up in 2015.
“When the time comes to look at a contract again I am absolutely going to keep this in mind, but for now I don’t think we are in a position to renegotiate the contract mid-term,” she said.
If parish residents have a pile of debris in their yard they need to get picked up they can call Chandra Sampey at the St. Charles Parish Contract Monitor’s Office at (985) 331-8604.
Progressive Waste Solutions did not respond to requests for comment on this story.