FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - The city of Fort Wayne has fined its garbage and recycling contractor $65,000 for not meeting benchmarks outlined in its contract, while still claiming there was an "adjustment period" for new providers.
The city said in a news release Tuesday that Red River Waste Solutions was fined $15,000 in April, and an additional $50,000 for May for "not meeting certain benchmarks as outlined in the garbage and recycling contract." Red River took over the city's garbage and recycling contract on Jan. 2.
Since then, dozens of residents around the city have reported issues with trash and recycling collection.
In Tuesday's news release, the city explained it - and Red River - "recognize there have been some issues and are working each day to address concerns. We apologize for any challenges that residents have experienced.
"It’s not uncommon, though, for there to be an adjustment period for any new provider," the release said.
Mayor Tom Henry said in the news release that the city was committed to providing excellent services to residents and that the city expects better results from Red River.
"My staff and I, along with City Council, are adamant that improvements need to be made to ensure garbage and recycling collection procedures and outcomes meet the needs and expectations of our residents and neighborhoods," said Henry. "Though we recognize that challenges are to be expected with a new provider, Red River has assured us that they’re prepared and ready to enhance their daily operations. I’m optimistic that they’re up to the task."
It's not clear exactly what "benchmarks" Red River failed to meet. Red River's contract with the city allows the city to fine it for missed collections or bill Red River if city employees perform trash or recycling collections. The contract requires Red River to collect missed collections by 5 p.m. the following day.
The contract also states that Red River cannot miss more than one household for every 1,000 households per week or face a $100 fine for each. If it reoccurs, the city can assess additional fines.
An entire street or neighborhood missed once in a three-month period can also carry a $100 fine, according to the contract.
It's unknown just how many homes or streets Red River has missed.
Red River is set to appear before Fort Wayne City Council on June 19.
Council President Tom Freistroffer said the board is "very disappointed" in Red River six months in. He explained the council hired Red River in an effort to save the city money, as it was the low bid.
The city received bids from five companies for the garbage and recycling collection contract, the highest of which was $9.61 million, and the lowest of which was $ 6.96 million from Red River. The Board of Public Works then approved the 7-year contract unanimously.
"City Council is very disappointed with repetitive resident complaints regarding Red River’s continued mishaps on garbage and recycling collection," said Freistroffer. "The vote at Council was focused on saving the taxpayers money, in taking the lowest bid and providing the best service to the City of Fort Wayne.”
When issues first arose with Red River in January, the company blamed harsh weather on collection issues. In Tuesday's release, the city explained that Red River was mired with a shortage of drivers.
Red River Vice President of Business Development Steve Smith told NewsChannel 15 on Tuesday that it has hired a new regional manager in response to its issues. Smith confirmed the company was in need of more drivers, and said it has seen a spike in recruitment thanks to a newly installed sign-on bonus and retention bonus.
Smith said Red River was now working to get the new drivers trained. He said Red River was fully confident they are making the improvements needed and are heading in the right direction.
The city issued the following reminders for residents:
Residents are reminded to have garbage and recycling bins set out the night before their collection day as crews collect garbage and recycling anytime between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Even though residents may have become accustomed to having materials collected at a certain time, it’s important to have everything set out the night before to ensure garbage and recycling materials are collected, as the contractor may be arriving at a different time.
Questions and concerns about missed pickups can be addressed by calling 311. Residents may also visit www.cityoffortwayne.org and click on the 311 icon to download the 311 mobile app and submit a concern.