Council may get tougher about garbage service

St. Charles Parish Council President Wendy Benedetto is on her way to getting what she wants – a more specific bid proposal on the parish’s garbage pickup service.

“We want to be sure when we put that bid out that we get what will meet the needs of the parish,” Benedetto said.

“What do we want in our bid? That’s what this is about.”For Benedetto’s district including Destrehan, residents’ complaints have been steady about garbage not being picked up and dumpsters not being replaced. Service has improved recently, but the calls keep coming, she said.

Waste Connections, formerly Progressive Waste Services, has blamed broken trucks for service gaps.

With the garbage contract coming up for bids, Benedetto and fellow council members have been focused on better defining contract terms through the council’s Legislative Committee. On Tuesday, committee members honed in on the contract, but agreed they wanted one more meeting to finalize the proposal for bids.

Chandra Sampey, with the parish’s Contract Monitor’s Office, said the anticipated bid proposal will include new clauses, including one that substantially raises the fine per offense from $25 to $200 if a resident calls three times on the same issue.

Offenses are now better defined, such as an incident where the service provider leaves a dumpster blocking a driveway or mailbox or obstructs the roadway.

Sampey said the proposed contract does not call for a rate increase, but committee members are considering the move to bid out garbage pickup along with recycling. Whether it happens depends on cost.

Residents pay $16.69 a month for garbage pickup. Of that amount, $11.95 is paid to the service provider and the difference covers the parish’s landfill fees.

With  Legislative Committee approval, the parish anticipates receiving bids by mid-October, recommendations on a bidder by November and the council awarding the contract by December, according to Sampey.

In the meantime, Benedetto estimated garbage pickup problems are behind at least one or more calls a week to council members.

Councilman Billy Woodruff, also a member of the Legislative Committee, said tree limb pickup is the concern that has kept his telephone ringing.

In one case, a resident complained to Woodruff that Waste Connections would not pick up what it considered a pile of tree limbs that extended beyond its contractual obligation. He added, to make the situation worse, the resident is in a wheelchair and incapable of removing the debris.

To date, Woodruff said the limbs are still in the man’s yard, mainly because Waste Connections wants an additional $250 for the pickup.

“It’s the tree limbs that they don’t want to pick up or don’t pick them up at all,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with them as far as missed people with their household garbage, but it’s pickup of tree limbs. That’s what makes up most of the calls – two to three a month.”

Waste Connections’ contract calls for picking up up to 10 cubic yards of limbs (cut down to 6 feet or less in length) and branches twice a month by calling the parish Department of Public Works. Beyond this amount, the company can charge a resident an additional fee for debris pickup.

Woodruff considers the service “fair” because in other situations the company has been responsive. It’s why he also wants to carefully help negotiate the bid proposal to better identify problem areas, such as limb pickup, without a rate increase.

“We’d like a contractor to come in and make a fair bid even if it’s the same company,” he said. “We want a fair deal for our money.”

Benedetto agreed.

“We’ve had an opportunity to really go over things and give input,” she said. “We’ve been identifying issues and how to move forward to better our contract and serve the needs that haven’t been met.”

Heading into a fourth Legislative Committee meeting to getting it done, Benedetto feels she and fellow council members are close to finalizing a proposal that will address these issues.

She also welcomed the administration’s help with getting this done.

Improving garbage pickup by providing more boom trucks is one of the solutions that Benedetto considers important. Curbside recycling is another option worth reviewing although she said it may not be one that residents are willing to pay for the service in fiscally challenging times.

“It’s being considered this time again although there would be another fee,” Benedetto said.

If there was support for such a move, she volunteered Ormond as a test area.

“I think it would be interesting to see,” said Benedetto, recounting town hall meetings held on it in the past that packed rooms with people who wanted it. The problem was the added fee needed to do it, but she notes that cost is likely much lower than when it was first discussed.

The parish does provide bins at locations for recycling, but they are routinely full and that has Benedetto convinced residents may be ready to step up to curbside service.Whichever way the council goes on these services, Benedetto welcomed the parish being more proactive on addressing garbage service issues.

A longtime council member, she said they’ve been dealing with difficulties with garbage pickup for years as one provider led to another until Progressive bought out STC Waste and Debris Services.

More recently, the company name changed to Waste Connections when Progressive bought the company by the same name.“We want to work really well with our next vendor and be perfectly clear with the Contract Monitor’s Office about what we need to make this a good garbage contract,” she said. “The community grows and the needs become more.”

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