The day after Mardi Gras, when the streets are laden with beads, St. Charles Parish residents will see new garbage trucks hauling away the trash. As of March 1, a new era garbage removal begins in the parish as Slidell-based Coastal Waste Services takes over for the much-maligned Waste Management Inc.
Residents can expect an increase of $5.25 to $16.68 in collection fees for the new services, but General Manager Gus Bordelon is hopeful that parish residents will see vast improvements to the services they received from Waste Management. While there are many changes, pickup days will initially remain the same.
Bordelon believes that the lower price Waste Management charged parish residents was part of the problem, saying, "They low balled it. I think they tried to do it on the cheap." Instead of the automated service, Coastal has attendants riding along with drivers to insure that all of the garbage is picked up, as well as returning the cans to curbs.
Waste Management has had recurring problems in St. Charles Parish, particularly after Hurricane Katrina when debris took months in some cases to remove.
This is not the first time Coastal has lured bids away from Waste Management. Recently, they were awarded contracts of 10,000 homes in Slidell and 7,000 homes Gretna. Bordelon said the personal, smaller service Coastal offers is their biggest advantage.
As for taking over, Bordelon thinks the beginning will be difficult. "I think one of the biggest issues we are going to have is debris that Waste Management has left behind," said Bordelon. To meet this challenge for the 19,000 homes in the parish, Coastal will commit 9 trucks and then drop it to 7 once they get a handle on the excess debris.
“The major problem we found in researching St. Charles Parish is carts being broken, especially the wheels,” said Bordelon. With two guys on the back of the truck, he said that they can fix it right on the spot.
Bordelon said that they would pick all of the waste, not differentiate between garbage and debris like Waste Management. Whether something was garbage or hurricane debris was the biggest problem that residents faced, as Ceres would only pick up debris, while Waste Management would only pick up garbage. Bordelon thought that Waste Mangement often hid behind this debate rather than stepping up to the challenge.
Members of the parish council became so enraged that voted to withhold the last payment to the garbage contractor. In St. John the Baptist Parish, Waste Management is facing similar complaints. There, the council is considering dropping their services.
"The have the corporate mentality that they are the best game in town. That has been proven wrong in Slidell and Gretna, said Bordelon. Just like the 20 years Waste Management has served St. Charles Parish, Slidell had retained their services for 25 before moving to Coastal.
"We will give the parish our undivided attention. It is the biggest piece of business that we have going for us; it is a tremendous opportunity," said Bordelon.