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Missed garbage pickups stir stink for board

Supervisors Monday voiced strong complaints about the quality ofservice the county is receiving from its solid waste company.

Trevor Ash, a site manager for Waste Management, appeared beforethe board to address supervisors’ concerns about missed pickups andother issues.

“In the past few months we’ve had some issues with excessivemissed pickups,” Ash admitted. “I’ve hired a lot of new drivers andconducted a lot of training.”

District Two Supervisor Bobby J. Watts said he was tired ofexcuses and wanted to see results.

“I am really, really disappointed with Waste Management. I’mtired of apologies,” said Watts, shouting and pointing his fingerat Ash. “I’m talking about whole roads – three weeks in a row.”

Ash said the company takes responsibility for the missedpickups. He said the new drivers are making mistakes and gettingconfused with unfamiliar routes and missing a section after theydump a load and return to the area.

“I don’t have an answer for that,” he said. “The drivers saythey know (the route). You hope they learn from theirmistakes.”

The company has 15 routes per week in the county and three havenew drivers, Ash said. Most of the problems are on those threeroutes.

“I know we have issues and we’re addressing them,” he said.

Watts demanded results.

“I understand new people, but I also understand you have anobligation to meet,” he said. “You’re the largest solid wastecompany in the world. You should be able to manage one county.”

Watts said the company would pay more attention to the problemsif it was receiving the complaints from customers.

“They don’t complain to you. They complain to us. They blameus,” said Watts, adding that the company’s performance wasaffecting his job. “I like my job, and I want to keep it.”

District One Supervisor the Rev. Jerry Wilson agreed.

“We’re taking the heat here. People can be cruel when they’reangry. I don’t think I’ve ever been blessed out more than over thisissue,” he said.

Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop suggested Waste Management start amedia campaign to advertise the telephone number to the company’scustomer service department.

“I apologize in advance for the way this is going to sound, butI don’t know how else to say it. We don’t really care aboutpersonnel or other issues,” Bishop said. “The people of LincolnCounty pay a quarterly fee and expect the service to be done.”

Wilson said what was even more upsetting to supervisors is thatwhen they are notified of a missed pickup and pass on thatnotification to the company, it is still not followed through.

“We try hard,” Ash said. “We’ve slacked. We do have a goodservice. We got the contract back because of that service.”

A contract between the county and Waste Management for solidwaste disposal that expired in October was renewed last month. Thecity’s contract with Waste Management for pickup service was alsorenewed as part of the joint negotiations.

Board President Gary Walker, District Three Supervisor NolanEarl Williamson and District Four Supervisor Doug Moak said theyhad a few minor problems in their district, but nothingunusual.

“You are doing some things good,” Moak said. “I don’t want tojust beat you down, but there are a few trouble areas.”

He said there a few times a failed pickup is not the fault ofthe company.

People get used to a truck arriving at a certain time and startto anticipate it, Moak said. They get upset when the truck is earlyand they didn’t get the trash out in time or when it is late andthey have already moved the trash back to the house.

“People shouldn’t expect trucks at a specific time because ofbreakdowns or delays,” Moak said. “Garbage should be put out earlyin the morning and not brought in until late at night.”

Ash agreed and said there are many variables that play into thetime of pickup, including, mechanical breakdowns, weather, detoursand a high garbage volume necessitating more frequent dropoffs.

Ash said after the meeting he knew some supervisors were upsetwith the company’s performance, but he was surprised by theferocity of the meeting.

“I was pretty shocked about what (Watts) had to say and how hesaid it,” Ash said. “It will improve. It’s taking longer than Iwould have thought, but it is improving.”